In 2010, Czech hospital doctors started an initiative called “Thanks, we are leaving”, whose purpose is to protest the long-term underfinancing, chaos and low wages in the health care sector.
The form of the protest is simple – the doctors announced they are quitting their jobs in order to work in countries with more “doctor-friendly” health care sectors, most notably Germany, which is generally seen as a sort of promised land by Czech job-seekers.
According to the Czech medical chamber, 3,831 doctors gave notice by January 1, 2010. However, they can change their mind before the end of February – in that case, most of the hospitals in question would accept them back. Spokespersons of Thomayer and Na Bulovce hospitals in Prague confirmed this to Aktualne.cz. In Motol, other Prague hospital, some of the doctors have already withdrawn their resignations.
The initiative’s web page (in Czech) cites the long-term underfinancing of the Czech health care sector as the main reason of the action. While the Czech Republic’s spending on health care system equals roughly 7 percent of its GDP, the EU average is 10 percent, says the web page.
According to the unions, the “exodus” initiative affects 78 out of the Czech Republic’s 200 or so hospitals. There are approximately 16,000 hospital doctors working in the Czech Republic, which means that nearly one in four appears ready to leave.
The most serious situation is in the hospitals of Northern Moravia, where up to 60 percent of doctors want to quit. Some regional authorities have already started to discuss the crisis and speak with the hospitals’ managers.
“Spanish scenario” in play
Health Care Minister Loeš Heger said that if the “exodus” really takes place, he is ready to persuade the representatives of the regions to declare the state of danger, forcing the doctors to either get back to work or be fined as much as EUR 2,000. However, the regional governors from the opposition Social Democrats refuse this measure.
In Spain, PM Zapatero imposed emergency measures at the beginning of December 2010 in order to break a wildcat strike by Spanish air traffic controllers.