DOCTORS in Slovak hospitals protesting against the state of the healthcare system have until midnight to withdraw their resignation notices. While the doctors’ unions are calling on them to remain united and not back down at the last moment, the Health Ministry reports that many of the doctors have already signed appendices to their contracts and withdrawn their resignations.
Reporters covering the situation in the regions suggest that many of the around 1,600 doctors who are still standing by their resignation notices may withdraw them in the course of today. But in several hospitals protesting doctors did not show up to work this morning.
“This is the day when the perception of doctors and their status in Slovakia will be decided,” Health Minister Ivan Uhliarik told a press briefing on the morning of November 30, adding that altogether 800 doctors have already withdrawn their resignations since the start of the strike, which leaves the number at around 1,600.
The Medical Trade Unions Association (LOZ) on the other hand continues to call on the doctors to stick to their protests, despite the fact that a state of emergency was declared for the 14 most threatened hospitals, meaning that many of the doctors will be obliged by the law to work even once their resignations have become effective.
“The last 800 – 1,000 people that they’ll be missing will be the most valuable,” LOZ advised the protesting doctors on their website, adding that the doctors shouldn’t allow themselves to be bought for a cheap reward.
“We are now fighting for annual salary increases on the basis of the average wage. This means that you stand to lose 20 years of guaranteed salary increases on the basis of the average wage in the national economy,” the LOZ wrote to encourage the doctors not to withdraw their resignations in exchange for appendices to their contracts that guarantee an increase of €300 on average. “If you hold on, you will win a new contract.”
Košice out of crisis, Liptovský Mikuláš critical
Doctors and their sympathisers held a protest meeting in front of the Banská Bystrica hospital on the evening of November 29, ringing keys, singing the national anthem and burning candles.
Meanwhile, the LOZ representatives said they perceived the declaration of the state of emergency as a form of “forced labour” that violates the principles of a democratic state, the TASR newswire reported from the LOZ press conference.
Out of the 15 hospitals that might start working under an emergency regime, only the teaching hospital in Košice has overcome the crisis: 210 doctors who originally filed resignation notices were reported to have withdrawn them as of November 29, which leaves the hospital with only 28 doctors with their resignations still filed. As a result none of the hospital’s doctors will have to work under the state of alert conditions, the Health Ministry reported.
All the regions for which the state of alert was declared held sessions of their respective security councils on November 29. The security councils delegated the power to the hospitals’ directors to decide which doctors will have to be called for service under the state of alert to secure timely and effective provision of basic health care to all patients in the region.
Northern-Slovak towns in the Orava region remain the most critical on the last day before the resignation notices of the protesting doctors become effective, but they report that they should be able to provide the necessary health care to all patients as a result of the state of emergency.
The hospital in Liptovský Mikuláš is now the most critical, since the protesting doctors did not turn up at work there on November 30, despite the state of emergency. The hospital has now switched to plan B, which means that doctors from the nearby town of Ružomberok were asked to come to work in the hospital, and a number of the patients are being moved to other hospitals, Uhliarik said.
Similar situation arose in other hospitals around Slovakia, including three hospitals in Bratislava and doctors in the Trnava hospital’s neurology and internal medicine wards, TASR reported.
While the hospitals are trying to cope with the critical situation they are in, political manoeuvring and personal assaults have been increasing in intensity in the last days before December 1.
The LOZ repeatedly accuses the cabinet, mainly the health minister and the prime minister, as well as the media, of spreading false information and lying to the public. The LOZ, but also opposition MPs and representatives of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), a party that used to be a member of the ruling coalition before the fall of the government, are now all calling on Minister Uhliarik to resign.
Uhliarik has in turn accused the LOZ head Marian Kollár of politicising the protests. He says that while the protesting doctors who could lose their jobs on December 1 are risking practically everything, Kollár runs a private gynaecological ambulance to earn his living and so for him personally not much is at stake.
Slovak media reported on November 29 that Kollár has in fact had been involved in several protest actions before, always against the ministers of centre-right governments. Kollár ran in parliamentary elections on the slate of the Movement for Democracy (HZD), a party founded by Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) renegades around Ivan Gašparovič, the current President of the country, the Sme daily reported. HZD currently supports the opposition party Smer.
30. Nov 2011 at 15:00 | Michaela Terenzani