Health Minister Souckova promises to resign if health care reform fails

19-01-2004

"If I fail to push through my reform plans, I'm prepared to resign" - those are words that the Czech public don't hear very often from the country's politicians. Now there is one such case, for Health Minister Marie Souckova has announced she will resign if her proposal to reform the ailing Czech health care system is not approved and implemented.

Health Minister Marie Souckova, photo: CTKHealth Minister Marie Souckova, photo: CTK Health Minister Marie Souckova who's also the deputy chairwoman of the ruling coalition Social Democrats said on Saturday she was ready to leave office if her health reform plan is not approved either by the government or parliament.

The chairman of the second biggest coalition party, the Christian Democrats, was quick to comment that Marie Souckova was putting pressure on the cabinet. However, deputy Prime Minister Petr Mares of the smallest party in the coalition, the Freedom Union, said Ms Souckova's radical step proved how important the reform proposal was for her.

"I don't see Minister Souckova's announcement as pressure on the government or the Freedom Union. It is a fundamental policy document and any minister can make his or her future career dependent on the success of such a document."

Minister Souckova has repeatedly come under heavy criticism from the opposition and people in the health sector for the way she runs her ministry. Her latest announcement has led to suggestions that Ms Souckova is aware that her position in the government is unsustainable and that resigning would be better than being sacked.

Minister Souckova's own party colleagues have expressed mixed reactions to her move as well as her planned reform. Observers say that the proposal could be approved by the government but its fate in the lower house is uncertain. Social Democrat MPs will discuss the 86-page health care reform proposal on Tuesday. As many as 30 out of the Social Democrats' 70 MPs are said to be prepared to vote against the reform.

The reason: the reform is expected to contain a number of measures which some Social Democrats say go against the party's policy. Among expected proposals are for example fees for medical prescriptions, reduction of hospital beds or sharing some hospitalisation costs by patients.

19-01-2004

Choose Karel Gott´s greatest hit (More)