General practitioners are once again threatening to strike in protest of delayed payments from the General Health Insurance Company, VZP. GPs say they are getting payments up to a month late despite the fact that the General Health Insurance Company is under forced administration, a move that the health minister David Rath said would secure financial stability. The health ministry is likewise under pressure from chemists who are threatening to strike over the government's decision to lower their profit margins by 3 percent as of January 1st. The opposition Civic Democrats have strongly criticized the health minister for his performance in office, saying that the radical measures he has effected have merely heightened the crisis in the Czech health sector.
The chief obstetrician of a maternity hospital stands charged with causing death through negligence after he ordered the transfer of a mother in labour to a different hospital where her baby was born stillborn. The state attorney on the case claims that a proper examination of the mother -including an ultrasound - would have shown that she needed immediate care and that further loss of time would put hers and the baby's life in danger. If found guilty, the obstetrician could face up to five years in prison.
Three young Germans of Russian origin have been handed lengthy jail sentences for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a prostitute in the Czech Republic. The regional court in the southern German city of Heilbronn found that the three men had planned to sell the sex worker from the Czech border city of Plzen to a brothel in Germany. The judges said the leader of the group hatched the plot because he was 30,000 euros in debt. They raped and killed the 37 year old woman after failing to beat her into submission, for fear that she would report them to the police. Two of them received life sentences, the third was handed a fifteen year prison sentence.
A former Czech army doctor imprisoned for killing the Nigerian consul in Prague in 2003 will not serve out his sentence. Prague court officials decided on Monday to release Jiri Pasovsky, aged 74, due to his poor health. Pasovsky shot dead the Nigerian consul and wounded another embassy employee, whom he blamed for not helping him after Pasovsky fell victim to a financial scam. He received an eight-year jail sentence in June last year, which was reduced to five years on appeal. Pasovsky's lawyer said he is suffering from cancer and other illnesses.
In related news, the Czech state agency for attracting investment, CzechInvest, said on Monday that it had helped secure 154 foreign and local investment projects worth 3.1 billion dollars last year - a record number of projects. CzechInvest head Tomas Hruda said the new projects would help create some 22,000 new jobs.
A second high-profile Czech businessman returned from aboard this week to face criminal charges. Jiri Syrovatka, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for his alleged role in a tax fraud case, had been in the United States on holiday. A co-defendant in the case, businessman Tomas Pitr, had returned home to the Czech Republic from neighbouring Austria on Thursday. Both men have filed appeals but were considered high risks for flight. Had Syrovatka not returned to the country by this Monday, police would have issued an international arrest warrant.
A Czech delegation left for South Korea on Monday for talks with representatives of the carmaker Hyundai, which is considering investing some 1.2 billion dollars into a new plant in Ostrava. In hopes of finalising a deal, apart from other incentives and tax breaks, the Czech delegation will present the government's plan to improve regional infrastructure and widen a highway reaching the border with Slovakia, where Hyundai has a subsidiary. The carmaker has said it will make a final decision this month.
The Minister of Labour, Zdenek Skromach, has denied reports in the tabloid media that Czech Airlines (CSA) in any way paid for or subsidised his family holiday in New York over New Year's. Skromach and his family did stay in discount hotel used by the national carrier flight staff. But the labour minister said he had only used Czech Airlines to reserve the rooms and produced receipts to prove that he had paid for the hotel himself. The airline also denied having in any way funded the minister's orivate New York trip.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek is to visit Norway and Denmark next week. He is due to meet his counterparts and other officials and he will also be received by Denmark's Queen Margarethe II. Prime Minister Paroubek will meet members of the Czech expatriate community in the Norwegian capital Oslo and in the Danish capital Copenhagen he is going to hold talks with businessmen investing in the Czech Republic.
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