EXPLAINED: Why are Czech doctors planning to protest?

A serious dispute over pay and overtime will lead to thousands of doctors taking on less work, leading to the postponement of procedures and appointments.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 25.10.2023 11:13:00 (updated on 25.10.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

As the year draws to a close, the Czech healthcare system finds itself at a crossroads, with an impending crisis looming. A debate between medical professionals and the government has thrust 6,000 doctors into a stand-off over their overtime work, while nurses and healthcare personnel are poised to join their cause.

The debate rages on the definition of overtime work – politicians argue that it is voluntary, while doctors claim it pushes the boundaries of legality. In response, many doctors have withdrawn from their overtime work agreements, a move that has the potential to disrupt Czechia's healthcare system profoundly.

Too much overtime

The government this month doubled the maximum annual overtime hours, to 832, but prohibited 24-hour shifts. Doctors argue this would disrupt work patterns and lead them to being remunerated less than they deserve – negotiations in the past fortnight have brought no results. However, officials may soon allow 24-hour shifts again if worked as overtime.

Calling for higher salaries

Doctors also want higher base salaries instead of relying on overtime pay, as up to half of their current earnings come from overtime. The doctors demand adherence to a 2011 memorandum calling for basic pay that is 1.5 to three times the average wage, a raise of 50 to 85 percent from current levels.

Will a solution be reached?

Despite the Labor Ministry's planned reneging of its original plan, doctors' unions nationwide say that it is simply not enough. "The [new] Labor Code was only the last straw, its return to the original version, which was ignored anyway, is not the solution," the Young Doctors section said last week.

If no resolution between the Ministry of Labor and Czech doctors' unions is reached, it could lead to the postponement of December appointments and surgeries.

A shortage of doctors may await

According to the Czech Health and Social Care Trade Union, hospitals are already short of up to 4,000 doctors and 5,000 nurses, which makes it difficult to maintain the normal amount of overtime work.


Martin Čaban (Seznam Zprávy): Čaban, a healthcare commentator, says that Health Minister Vlastimil Válek's handling of negotiations to prevent a healthcare crisis in December is viewed skeptically by his colleagues and that a protest will most likely occur. Progress is slow, and trust between the ministry and Czech healthcare unions is low. Válek's actions have fueled doubts, particularly regarding his empty promises that salaries will be increased.

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