Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Doctors czeching out

Almost 4,000 doctors - one quarter of the total number working in the country's hospitals - tendered their resignations in protest at low wages. In one region, the Vysocina, 80% of all hospital doctors have handed in their resignations. If they do quit, some hospitals may be forced to close. The resignations are being co-ordinated by the doctors' union (Lok), which says successive Czech governments have done nothing to improve doctors' salaries.

Dr Martin Engel, a radiologist at Prague's sprawling Vinohrady Hospital and the chairman of the Lok. After 30 years of experience and numerous specialist qualifications, Dr Engel earns $2,230 per month, including overtime and before tax. "We want real change and we want it now," he explained. "We're not waiting for 'reforms'. We want money. Then we can talk about reforms."

Peter Papp, 31, is an oncologist working at a hospital in Usti nad Labem, an industrial city about an hour's drive north of Prague. He spent six years at medical school followed by three years on the cancer wards of two district hospitals. With maximum overtime, Dr Papp's gross salary is $1,165 (£750, 880 euros) per month, well below the national average. After tax, health and social insurance payments, he takes home around $900 dollars, less than a car mechanic or waiter. With rent in the Usti area at around $350 per month, he is left with slightly more than $500 to feed, clothe, transport and entertain himself. After devoting the last nine years of his life to medicine, Dr Papp has had enough. "I'm not willing to work for the salary of a McDonald's employee," pointing out that he had made more money teaching English to pay his way through medical school. "

"I wasn't trained to treat particular nations. A sick person is a sick person anywhere in the world."

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