Czech Republic's largest hospital in deplorable state

02-03-2004

Several infants had to be evacuated from the surgical ward of Prague's Motol hospital on Monday afternoon, after a cracked water pipe raised the floor by half a metre. Motol hospital is the largest in the Czech Republic and plays a pivotal role in the country's healthcare service. Unfortunately, such incidents are not a rare occurrence, due to the poor state of the building.

Motol hospital, photo: CTKMotol hospital, photo: CTK The children's unit in the hospital is unfortunately quite used to the inconvenience caused by the building's many structural faults. Ten years ago, the ceiling of the X-ray room gave way just after a patient had left it. Then, last Friday the collapse of the floor in one of the children's wards barely missed a woman and her 4-year old child. The situation worsened Monday when the flooding of the children's ward consisting of 5 patients and a large amount of laboratory equipment had to be evacuated.

The Motol hospital was built in the mid 1960's, a period known in construction for its poor quality. The building hadn't been repaired in decades and the first research conducted on its condition began in 2001. The total sum for the refurbishing of the hospital was estimated at 4.8 billion crowns. Since then, repairs have been made, but they only serve as a band-aid solution to a greater problem and the expenses continue to add up. Miloslav Ludvik is the director of the hospital.

"Every year the repairs get more expensive and more expensive. Two or three years ago we spent 62 million crowns for repairs, last year we used 82 million and this year I am sure it will be over 100 million crowns."

The result of Friday's water leakage will not put the health of Motol hospital patients at risk. But as Mr. Ludvik told Radio Prague, surveyors have discovered the water has affected the foundation of the building, which means a higher cost of repair. Mr. Ludvik commented on what measures have been taken to receive greater support from the government.

"We tried a number of ways to obtain money. First of all, we put forward a proposal for a new law, which would ensure hospitals a state guarantee for loans. Unfortunately, the parliament rejected it. A major problem was that MPs from many different regions each individually lobbied for money so we had no chance to push the law through. The second possibility would be that the government declares that the hospital is in dire need of reconstruction which would enable us to obtain preliminary consent from banks to provide credit."

Hospital managers have in the past criticised the country's MPs for repeatedly pushing back discussion on a proposal that would allow the hospital to receive a government loan for reconstruction work. Health Minister Marie Souckova said there were several different proposals, including one to demolish the building and erect a new one at a cost of some 15 billion crowns.

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