21-11-2001

A week after the nation went into mourning over the Czech football team's failure to qualify for next year's World Cup finals, the morning papers carry the news that many fans in this country had been waiting for. "Chovanec resigns", "Chovanec's reign is over" and "Why did it take him so long?" read some of the front page headlines.

"And about time too" says Lidove noviny, which like other dailies has showered criticism on the former coach. It is hard to say why Mr. Chovanec needed five days to admit defeat, the paper notes. Had he stepped down immediately following last Wednesday's debacle he could at least have departed with some dignity. That way the media would only have questioned his professional performance - not his moral qualities as well.

Mlada fronta Dnes informs readers that the taboo surrounding the quality of medical care at individual hospitals is now a thing of the past. Dozens of Czech hospitals have agreed to publish sensitive data regarding waiting lists for certain operations, the quality of care, post-op complications and the death rate of their patients. The information is to be found on the web pages of certain health insurance companies, despite protests from the health ministry.

The health minister has slammed the initiative saying that the practice would lead to hospitals refusing to treat terminally ill patients and complicated cases because the results might damage their "success statistics". However Mlada fronta Dnes is strongly in favour of the idea saying that finally Czechs will be able to chose their doctor and hospital on the basis of serious information rather than the local grapevine.

Pravo has information which is likely to unnerve many parents. A great deal has been said about the financial problems of schools in the Czech Republic over the last two months, but today Pravo has a down to earth report about the practical aspects of this problem. Many schools are scraping the bottom of the barrel to pay for heating, the paper says. As a result there is not enough money for basic maintenance and textbooks.

Yes, we have heating and light but we've had to save on textbooks , the headmaster of a secondary school in Brno told the paper. If we had bought the textbooks we need we would have had to use them as fuel today, he added. Others school heads have similar stories to tell. Hygiene standards are not being met because there is not enough money for paint jobs, repair work etc. In some areas parents have pitched in to help but the paper points out that this is simply not a solution. At this point schools need a financial injection of several million crowns, it says.

Lidove noviny highlights a recent statement by the country's social affairs minister Vladimir Spidla, saying that given the present demographic trend in the Czech Republic within the next thirty years, gaps on the labour market would gradually have to be filled by thousands, possibly millions of immigrants from the East - largely from Ukraine and Russia. Lidove noviny notes that this will be a huge tolerance-test for a nation that is still very xenophobic, especially when nationals from the former Soviet Union are concerned.

Subconsciously many Czechs equate Russians and Ukrainians with "the mafia" and it will take a lot of time and effort to change that attitude - but a change there must be, the paper says. At present the fear of taking in more immigrants is considerable. According to a recent survey conducted by the Opinion Window agency, eight out of ten Czechs asked were in favour of restricting the number of immigrants allowed into the country. A wonderful environment for a politician like Austria's far-right nationalist Joerg Heider, the paper notes.

21-11-2001