President Zeman dismisses Health Minister Blatný, appoints replacement

Blatný had been the third health minister during the pandemic; he will be replaced by Petr Arenberger, director of the Prague-Vinohrady Teaching Hospital.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 07.04.2021 11:42 (updated on 07.04.2021)

President Miloš Zeman has dismissed Health Minister Jan Blatný, as had been requested by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Blatny had been in office for just five months.

He is being replaced by Petr Arenberger, director of the Prague-Vinohrady Teaching Hospital, who will be the fourth health minister in the current government.

Blatný told reporters that he can understand his dismissal as a political decision that Babiš had the right.

"I have a clean conscience myself, as I have been working on the basis of my expertise only, making decisions based on expert data and analyses," Blatný said.

He added that Babiš's step may reflect his view that the country has overcome the worst during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Blatný said he had learned about his dismissal from Babiš at a personal meeting with him on Tuesday evening.

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"The prime minister alone may tell you the reasons. Our conversation focused on the possibility of mutual cooperation and political issues. I do not want to elaborate," Blatný said.

There has been speculation about Blatný's dismissal for some time. Babiš addressed several letters of objection to him, criticizing the tough conditions his ministry set for using experimental Covid-19 medicines and the procedure accompanying a tender for the supply of Covid test kits for schools.

Blatný's dismissal was also demanded in March by Zeman over Blatný's opposition to the Czech use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine without its approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). By rejecting this vaccine, Blatný was responsible for additional Covid deaths in the Czech Republic, Zeman said.

"I have always stood by the use of the approved vaccines solely. This is the only way to secure that they are safe and tested and that they really work. The same applies to the anti-COVID-19 drugs," Blatný said today, adding that when it comes to medicines he must be sure that they not only help but also do not harm patients.

Child hematologist Blatny, 51, occupied the post in Babiš's government from Oct. 29, 2020, becoming the third health minister in a fairly short time. First, Adam Vojtěch resigned last September, and was replaced by epidemiologist Roman Prymula. He had to resign due to a scandal involving pictures in the tabloid Blesk showing him leaving a Prague restaurant, which should have been closed under the anti-epidemic measures of the time, late in the evening and entering a car without wearing a face mask.

Speculation has also emerged over a possible dismissal of Education Minister Robert Plaga, but the Education Ministry spokeswoman Aneta Lednová said earlier this morning that Plaga is not going to be dismissed and will remain in his post.

The new health minister will be appointed at Prague Castle at 11:30, President Zeman's spokesman said without elaborating.