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Ludvík: Ministry has no money to raise protesting GPs’ pay

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Prague, Oct 18 (CTK) – The Czech Health Ministry does not have enough money for 2018 to meet the protesting out-patient specialists and general practitioners’ demands, the planned spending increase will mostly be used to raise hospital staff’s wages, Minister Miloslav Ludvik said on Wednesday.

About 7,000 or roughly one-third of GPs, child practitioners and out-patient specialists left their surgeries closed on Wednesday in protest against the ministry’s new healthcare prices directive. They say their surgeries have been underfinanced, compared with doctors in hospitals.

Some 400 pharmacies, one-sixth of their total number, joined the doctors’ protest by a symbolic half-hour closure on Wednesday. Another 1500 of them only joined the protest symbolically.

Pharmacists primarily criticise the fact that the prepared ministerial decree does not count with any compensation for the introduction of an e-prescription.

They are protesting against receiving no compensation for having to cope with e-prescriptions that all doctors will be obliged to issue as of January 1. Unlike doctors, pharmacies have been offered no compensation for adapting their computers accordingly, the Czech Pharmacists’ Chamber (CLnK) and the pharmacists addressed by CTK said.

The protesting doctors do not believe in a change to the ministerial decree on the coverage of treatments from health insurance and they want the new Chamber of Deputies, which will emerge from the Friday and Saturday general election, to suspend the duty of e-prescriptions, Association of General Practitioners chairman Petr Sonka said in an interview with CTK, on behalf of the Coalition of Private Doctors.

Ludvik (Social Democrats, CSSD) told a press conference that the ministry expects the sum collected in health insurance contributions to rise by 16 billion crowns next year as a result of economic growth and growing employment. Out of the sum, it plans to spend 7.5 percent billion on raising the wages of hospital staff as of next year based on the cabinet’s decision.

Further 1.5 billion will go to raising the wages of the hospital nurses who rotate in shifts in hospital wards and whose monthly pay has been increased by 2,000 crowns since this July, Ludvik said.

Furthermore, 1.5 billion is projected for raising the wages of the personnel in after-care wards and facilities, and the spending on expensive specialised treatment will also increase by 1.5 billion crowns.

“Less than four billion crowns have been left [of the extra 16 billion at the disposal], which we have divided in a way to give some money to everybody [in the health sector]. I must dismiss the information that somebody’s incomes will drop, which is not true,” Ludvik said.

The protesting GPs and pharmacists complain about an expected stagnation of their incomes, and out-patient specialists demand an 800-million-crown increase in the state’s spending on them.

They criticise what they call a disproportion between the income of their surgeries, including the doctor’s and nurse’s pay, the rent, operational costs and medical material, with hospital doctors’ pay.

Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula, nevertheless, stressed that GPs and out-patient specialists work only over 30 hours a week, compared with up to 60 working hours of doctors in hospitals.

Some 80 percent of GPs joined the strike in the Olomouc (north Moravia) and Liberec (north Bohemia) regions, about 90 percent in the Zlin Region (south Moravia) and more than 70 percent in the Hradec Kralove Region (east Bohemia) on Wednesday. The situation in other regions was similar.

However, some of the protesting doctors treated at least acute cases, while others joined the protest by displaying posters only, but they did not close their offices.

The strike has no serious impact on the operation of hospitals. Some of them extended their outpatient care.

GPs and outpatient specialists protested last Tuesday as well when some 12,000 participated in the event. They kept their offices open, but they were only wearing black ribbons on their sleeves as a symbol of the “burial” of their private practices.

The final version of the criticised ministerial decree is to be completed by the end of October.

About 10,000 private dentists, 5,500 general practitioners and 4,000 specialist doctors with their own outpatient offices are registered in the Czech Republic with a population of 10.5 million.

In total, there are 43,000 active doctors in the Czech Republic, including more than 6,800 GPs, 12,800 outpatient specialists, such as dentists, and 4,800 child practitioners. However, part of them have their surgeries in hospitals and this is why they are not involved in the protest.

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