Almost 2,000 doctors at Slovak hospitals resigned en masse today in protests over pay and conditions, with union leaders warning more will quit in the days ahead.
A total of 1,948 hospital doctors had resigned by Thursday afternoon, according to Peter Visolajský, chairman of the Medical Trade Unions Association (LOZ), adding that more colleagues would do the same during the rest of today and tomorrow.
The resignations involve doctors at 27 hospitals in Slovakia - including faculty, university, regional, and private facilities - working in fields including traumatology, cardiology, anaesthesiology, intensive care medicine, gynaecology, among others.
"Large hospitals in Bratislava are unable to function without these doctors," Visolajský said.
The mass resignations come amid demands for better pay and conditions in the health care system.
In February, the LOZ set out demands for a series of steps that needed to be taken to improve the functioning of the health care system, in particular the need to address hospital financing, reform of the health insurance system, and salary hikes for doctors and nurses.
A proposal to increase doctors' salaries is currently being discussed in parliament, but Visolajský said doctors had been left with no choice but to hand in their resignations and criticised the health minister, Vladimir Lengvarský (OĽaNO nominee).
In 2011, a similar mass resignation of doctors when 1,200 resigned, led to a declaration of a state of emergency.