Young Czech doctors up in arms over pay and conditions

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Young doctors getting residency training at clinics and hospitals in the Czech Republic are increasingly unhappy with their working conditions, with some saying they have no option but to leave the country. The Young Doctors group, which is made up of medicine graduates, is mainly concerned with the current system of receiving qualifications, though they also complain about low salaries. Ruth Fraňková reports.

Young doctors in the Czech Republic who get residency training while preparing for professional exams only receive part-time contracts. In practice, however, they often put in full-time hours, for which they receive only part-time pay. Dr Eva Kusíková graduated four years ago and now works at a department of anaesthesia and intensive care medicine:

“Basically how it worked was you got a very low salary from the hospital, you got some scholarship from the faculty and you were expected to get some money from the ground for your scientific work. The problem is that officially you only worked for the hospital for about four hours a week but in reality you worked a full time or maybe even more for almost no money at all. This is how it worked for me for at least a year and a half.”

Dana Jurásková, Tomáš Kocourek, photo: CTK
But low pay is not the only problem. Under the current legislation, medical graduates have to spend the first two years at one of a number of what are called “stem departments”. These, however, don’t cover all medical fields. As a result, doctors who want to become for instance eye specialists spend the first two years of their practice without actually seeing an eye. Tomáš Kocourek is the head of Young Doctors group, which was formed with the aim of changing the current system:

“Now it is unfriendly to the doctors. The state and the ministry must make it easy for us or at least easier than it is now. This is the first condition. The second condition, which I think is universal for all jobs, is that we want more money. I think money for doctors in the Czech Republic is shameful. And third, we want to spend less time at work. If you are at work for 260 or 300 hours a month, you have no social and no private life. This is a serious problem.”

After a meeting with the Young Doctors group in Prague on Saturday, Health Minister Dana Jurásková promised to change the legislation to prevent such practices in the future. However, doctors such as Eva Kusíková remain sceptical:

Dana Jurásková, photo: CTK
“I would very much like to say I hope so and I always do hope so, but I don’t believe it anymore, because many of the young doctors will do the same things as I did just because they want to stay in Prague and work at a certain clinic. They will hope the conditions for them will improve. They will be willing to do it and if not, there will be ten other people to replace them. These promises sound to me very much like elections are coming.”