Doctors' strike in protest of proposed cuts in spending

18-06-2003

The government proposed budget reform is still on the Cabinet's negotiating table but it has already caused plenty of upheaval. One cabinet minister resigned because of the proposed cuts in spending and trade unions across the country are preparing protest actions. Strikes in hospitals are generally a last resort but doctors' unions have now announced a protest strike planned for Thursday June 19th, which may affect close to 80 hospitals in the country.

Although the Doctors' Union which has called the strike represents only 5,500 of the country's 40, 000 doctors, the appeal is universal and hospitals in nine big cities, including Prague, have announced that they will join the strike in some form - from a symbolic one hour strike to providing only emergency medical care. It is estimated that as many as 80 hospitals across the country may join the protest action. The chairman of the doctors' union Milan Kubek explains why the relatively small union decided to call a protest strike.

"In the Czech Republic there are two trade union associations. One is the Czech and Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions - which is, in my view, hand in glove with the governing Social Democrats. The people who head the confederation are in high party posts and their allegiance is very evident from their actions. Then there is a smaller but more independent trade union association of which we are member, alongside teachers, rail workers, farmers and others. This association of trade unions has called several protest actions for Thursday and our strike is part of this protest."

The Doctors Union has urged people not to seek medical services on that day -unless it is unavoidable -and, if they can, to come to the Old Town Square to support their cause. Milan Kubek explains that in doing so people will be defending their own interests as well.

"We are worried that, in its present form, the budget reform could lead to a devastation of the medical sector. Even now there is a brain drain to neighbouring Germany where hospitals employ over 400 Czech doctors - the best Czech doctors, as you can imagine. At the same time Czech hospitals report a shortage of 550 doctors. The same is happening with nurses. We understand the need for reform but it must not be made at the cost of quality health care in the Czech Republic. "

18-06-2003