- Hans Weber
- November 29, 2023
Over 4,000 Czech Doctors Threaten to Quit or Stop Overtime in Protest Against Labor Code Amendment
In a bold and unprecedented move, more than 4,000 doctors in the Czech Republic have issued a threat to resign from their positions or cease taking on overtime shifts starting from December 1st. This protest is a direct response to the government’s efforts to pass an amendment to the labor code, which would temporarily legalize working shifts beyond regular hours, a practice that is currently considered illegal. Doctors are vehemently opposed to the idea of normalizing such extended working hours.
If these actions are carried out, it could have severe repercussions on the availability of healthcare services in the country. Doctors are holding politicians accountable for their inaction on this issue over the years. The proposed amendment is scheduled for review by the Parliament next week, having already passed through the Senate. In the event of its approval, the Czech Medical Chamber plans to seek intervention from the President and the Constitutional Court.
Milan Kubek, the President of the Czech Medical Chamber, explained the course of action, stating, “If the law is passed, we have no choice but to turn to the President. We are also considering approaching the Constitutional Court because there is discrimination against a certain group of citizens. Why shouldn’t doctors have the same rights as other workers?”
In an extreme scenario, doctors may even seek assistance from the European Court of Justice, arguing that the proposal violates European directives, a claim contested by the Minister of Labor, Marian Jurečka.
Doctors are aware that the situation cannot be resolved in a mere three months, and thus, they are demanding at least a guarantee that further overtime will not be legalized. They also want meaningful changes to the system, backed by concrete commitments rather than empty promises.
Jan Přáda, the head of the Young Doctors Section at the Czech Medical Chamber, emphasized the importance of long-term sustainable working conditions, better financial compensation, and greater compliance with labor laws. He stated, “Doctors are just people. The safety of patients is our top priority. However, if we don’t get the conditions that will allow us to stay in this system for another 20 to 30 years, we willingly say no.”
While Health Minister Vlastimil Válek noted that “negotiations are not opposed,” the potential fallout from the doctor’s protest could be significant. Doctors have argued that the tolerated practice of excessive overtime holds them hostage, and the legalization of such practices would further exacerbate the situation.
The survey conducted among 1,450 doctors revealed that only 18% of them could balance work and family life, with nearly 70% expressing dissatisfaction with the healthcare system. Doctors have also raised concerns about the impact of legalized overtime on pregnant women, as the law currently prohibits them from working such hours, despite these occurrences.
Addressing this issue requires systemic change, and according to doctors, it cannot be resolved hospital-by-hospital. The consequences of this unprecedented action could have far-reaching implications for the healthcare system in the Czech Republic, prompting a critical examination of working conditions and labor regulations within the sector.
Article by Prague Forum