Sunday, 21 July 2019

Doctors, unions call gov't's health care achievements meagre

ČTK |
24 July 2017

Prague, July 23 (CTK) - The Czech centre-left government has achieved only little in the health care area, failing to tackle both the personnel crisis and the sector's underfinancing, doctors' chambers and medical workers' unions say at the close of the government's term of office.

On the other hand, they praise the raising of wages and the indexation of the health insurance contributions the state pays for selected groups of inhabitants.

"The cabinet has only tackled the most urgent troubles but it created nothing new," Dagmar Zitnikova, chairwoman of the Health and Social Care Workers' Union, said.

Doctors and unions agree that the government inherited most problems from its predecessors.

They said the biggest problems are health care financing and the personnel situation.

In the Czech Republic, the GDP share going to health care is 2 percent below the European average, they say.

According to Roman Smucler, who will take up the post of Czech Doctors' Chamber (CLK) as of September, the financial situation of health care has further deteriorated under the present government of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

"By putting emphasis on large hospitals and curbing out-patient specialists' offices, the cabinet has made the system more expensive. This will bring the health insurance financing into a crisis," Smucler said.

A solution would be to transfer a larger part of health care to general practitioners and out-patient specialists. Furthermore, patients' regulatory fees should be reintroduced, as should be their co-payment for medical treatment they could avert by reasonable behaviour, Smucler said.

Despite having raised the staff's pay repeatedly, the government failed to stabilise the personnel situation in the sector, the doctors and unions say.

Hospitals are short of hundreds of doctors and thousands of nurses.

"Hospital wards have been closed down temporarily or definitively due to a shortage of nurses and doctors. Workers of all professions are lacking and the current staff have been permanently overburdened," Zitnikova said.

Outgoing CLK President Milan Kubek said Czech nurses prefer switching to other jobs and many doctors leave to work abroad.

"A number of hospitals fully depend on foreign staff. The CLK has even registered cases of illegal employment of foreigners with a disputable professional qualification," Kubek said.

Another promise the government failed to meet is to make the health services prices equal for all health insurers, whose payments for the same service considerably differ now.

Kubek criticised the newly amended law on medical workers' education as unfriendly to young doctors and threatening to further worsen smaller regional hospitals' personnel situation.

On the other hand, dentists have welcomed the amendments.

The doctors also criticise the new law on the education of non-doctor professions, which changed the system of nurses' education and introduced the profession of traditional Chinese medicine therapist.

According to Kubek, the listing of "healers" among medical workers is a European rarity and "the utmost shame."

In its policy statement, the government pledged to push through a bill on non-profit hospitals, which would transfer teaching hospitals' status to university hospitals, but this has not happened. The bill has been drafted but the cabinet can no longer manage to push it through before the October 20-21 elections.

The unions welcome this because the bill is bad and could have had irreversible negative impacts, if implemented, Zitnikova said.

Kubek said the cabinet failed to fulfil its promise to see to that the ownership of health insurance companies is separated from the ownership of health facilities.

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