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HN: Reliable data on lack of staff in Czech hospitals missing

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Prague, May 19 (CTK) – The critical situation in Czech health care is one of the hottest issues of the last several weeks, yet no reliable data on how many doctors and nurses hospitals need have been available, daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes on Thursday.

Czech Doctors’ Chamber (CLK) head Milan Kubek says the healthcare budget needs to considerably increase for the standard treatment of patients to be guaranteed and that hospitals desperately need more staff, while Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) claims that there is enough money in the system but it is not used reasonably. However, not even the Health Ministry has detailed knowledge of the situation in Czech hospitals, the paper writes.

Health Minister Svatopluk Nemecek (Social Democrats, CSSD) appreciated that none of the 14 state-run hospitals that employ tens of thousands of people had to close a single ward. “Thanks to the good work of the directors of the directly controlled hospitals no reduction of health care services has occurred due to a lack of personnel,” the ministry’s spokesman Jan Stoll told HN about the hospitals supervised by the ministry.

Stoll did not comment on the situation in hospitals run by regional and municipal authorities or private hospitals.

The Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics (UZIS) does not know how many doctors and nurses would need to smoothly operate, the paper writes.

UZIS head Ladislav Dusek said only 38 percent of the hospitals answered the institute’s questions about their personnel situation. “We received data that showed such an enormous lack of staff that we cannot use them since they are not representative,” Dusek told the paper.

He said he can hardly defend the hospitals in such a situation.

Dusek said there really is a lack of medical professionals in Czech hospitals, but without reliable data this cannot be proved.

The country’s majority health insurer, the state-controlled General Health Insurance Company (VZP), does not have data that would prove the deep personnel crisis. In 2015, the VZP made 441 inspections in hospitals and in 87 cases in found that the hospital had fewer staff than is set by the rules in some of its wards. These hospitals had two options: either hire more staff or lower the number of beds for patients, HN writes.

VZP spokesman Oldrich Tichy said the number of beds decreased by 67 last year, which is a very marginal decrease represeting 0.14 percent of the whole number of the beds.

HN addressed 150 hospitals and 65 of them answered its questions about the numbers of doctors and nurses. Some hospitals clearly said they would not give any answer, including those from the Agel network owned by billionaire Tomas Chrenek.

The data provided by the 65 hospitals do not show any deep personnel crisis. Almost all hospitals seek more staff, but on average they lack about 3-4 percent of their personnel. Exceptionally, they would need 10 percent more employees. The most critical seems to be the situation in the Kladno hospital that has 178 doctors and is searching for 35 more, HN writes.

The CLK argued that the hospitals gave low figures because they would have faced inspections and possible problems if they admitted how critical the situation was. “The main reason why they do not tell the absolute truth seems to be that they fear that their hospital would be closed,” CLK spokesman Michal Sojka told the paper.

Sojka said doctors and nurses must work overtime very often and the total annual number of their overtime hours markedly exceeds the upper limit set by law.

According to the CLK, Czech hospitals need at least 967 doctors. The CLK arrived at this number by counting all ads in which hospitals seek doctors on their websites, HN writes.

The paper writes that the figures alone do not tell the whole story.

The biggest Czech hospital in Prague-Motol is seeking about 90 nurses, but it manages the situation rather well with its present 1900 nurses. On the other hand, the Kolin hospital has 653 nurses and it would employ 23 more. But when two nurses fell ill in the hospital, the vascular ward had to be closed during Christmas holidays due to it, HN writes.

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