Police in Prague arrested a 39-year-old foreign national on Wednesday night after they found 12 kilos of marihuana in his car, a police spokeswoman said. Officers stopped the man’s car for a regular check and found marihuana plants, dried marihuana leaves as well as electric fans and digital scales. The foreigner, who is already being prosecuted in another drug-related case, faces ten years in jail.
The Czech health authorities have reported 27 new cases of HIV in November of this year, which is the steepest increase in a single month since testing started in 1985. The overall number of HIV positive cases registered in this country is 1520, of which 320 people developed AIDS and 169 died of it. The authorities warn that less money is being put into prevention and young people no longer feel at risk.
Just over 3,500 Czech physicians (out of 16,000 doctors in all) have handed in their notices in protest of salary conditions, the doctor’s union confirmed on Monday. The departures will affect 78 of the country’s 200 hospitals, with the situation worst in the Vysočina region (the Czech-Moravian Highlands). Zlín, Moravia-Silesia and Ústí nad Labem will also be hard hit by the departures. In view of the two-month period of notice, doctors will stop working on March 1. As a result, some hospital wards and even entire hospitals may be closed, while other facilities may have to provide only emergency care. Last week the Health Minister Leoš Heger urged doctors to reconsider their departure to allow time for planned reforms which he said should redirect funds towards salaries.
The Czech doctors’ union reports that roughly a fourth of the country’s 16,000 doctors have pledged to resign their positions through the “Thank You, We’re Leaving” campaign, which demands a rise in the base salaries of hospital doctors. If indeed that number of doctors goes through with the protest, nearly 40% of hospitals in the Czech Republic will be affected. But the Ministry of Health is not flinching. Christian Falvey has the story.
High among those threatening to resign are hospital neurologists in Prague. According to the union, up to 80% of neurologists in some Prague medical facilities have promised to quit their jobs. In some hospitals, the doctors who have stayed on are predominantly pensioners or are on maternal leave, further reducing the true number of available neurologists at the centres. Hospital doctors currently earn an average 50,000 crowns per month including overtime and services; the union’s goal is an average base salary of 70,000. Health Minister Leoš Heger has said that the government will have to resort to using crisis funds to run hospitals should a majority of surgeons or anaesthesiologists resign.
In Business News: Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas comes out against the European budget freeze; the health minister, Leoš Heger, says the health Ministry will do everything possible to redirect funds towards doctors’ salaries; the Czech Trade Inspection Office will soon be able to publish the names of gas stations selling poor-quality fuel; and, etiquette experts provide tips on how not to behave at upcoming office parties.
Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Tuesday that in the event of a mass exodus of Czech doctors the government would have to use its emergency reserve funds to keep hospitals in the big cities operational. In the course of the past fortnight hundreds of dissatisfied doctors have handed in their notice, with some hospitals now at risk of losing up to 70 percent of their staff in the New Year. The massive protest was triggered by doctors’ trade unions who urged physicians to seek better paid positions abroad if the government did not increase their salaries threefold. Four thousand doctors have signed a petition indicating their readiness to walk out, but hospitals are still hoping many of them will reconsider. Minister Heger on Tuesday admitted that the health sector could soon face a serious crisis, with some hospitals unable to perform even emergency surgery.
Medical experts have warned people not to place excessive confidence in the HIV home testing kits which have just become available on the market. Doctors point out that it may take two to three months for the virus to show up in a blood test and caution new couples against abandoning other forms of protection until that period has expired. Experts likewise argue that people who get a positive result from a home kit will not get the benefit of immediate professional help, may not see a doctor about medication and could even attempt suicide.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has confirmed the government is planning on closing down some hospital wards and merging smaller facilities. Speaking on a Sunday TV debate programme he stressed the moves were needed as part of reforms in the health care sector. He also gave full backing to the health minister, Leoš Heger. The minister is in a difficult position as a quarter of the country’s doctors have threatened to quit by the end of the year unless they see a significant pay raise. But hospitals already are strapped for funds: 80 of them finished in the red in the first half of 2010. The prime minister made clear the government would review the network of existing facilities to determine possible changes in status and services.
Almost half of Czech hospitals – 80 out of 164 that provided information – finished in the red in the first half of 2010, statisticians reported. Out of the 80, more than half saw losses greater than 5 million crowns. But all hospitals together finished with a positive result of 148 million crowns. Expenses for Czech hospitals totaled 62.4 billion crowns, returns 62.5. Next year, hospitals will get around two percent less in financing than in 2010, which over the year will a difference of around two billion crowns. Individual facilities will have to make up the difference from internal funds, meaning they will not be in a position to raise salaries.