Health Minister Leoš Heger has appealed to doctors not to leave their posts saying he would start raising their salaries next year. In an open letter released on Wednesday the health minister asked close to 4,000 doctors to withdraw their resignations and have a little more patience, saying that reform measures in the health sector would make it possible to start raising their salaries next year. The letter is the first conciliatory gesture on the part of the health minister who maintained that there was no money in state coffers for higher salaries and accused doctors’ trade unions of blackmail. The mass exodus is expected to hit hospitals at the beginning of March and regions have been bracing for a crisis.
The government has moved to soften the controversial “muzzle law” that prohibits journalists from revealing information about individuals involved in criminal investigations. At its regular session on Wednesday the cabinet approved an amendment which would make it possible to publish such information in cases involving corruption of politicians and other public officials. Under the amendment it is to be examined on a case-to-case basis whether public interest outweighs the right to privacy. The law will remain strict as concerns the privacy of children. The existing legislation has come under fire from international media watchdogs, who see it as an attack on press freedom.
The new US ambassador to Prague, Norman Eisen, is due to take up the post on January 28, the CTK news agency wrote on Wednesday citing Prague Castle sources. Mr. Eisen who has served as President Obama’s advisor on ethics and government reform, will present his credentials to President Vaclav Klaus on the same day. The post of US ambassador to Prague has been unoccupied since the departure of Richard Graber in January 2009. Mr. Eisen’s appointment to the post was not without problems. His nomination was blocked by Republican Senator Charles Grassley. Late last year President Obama pushed through his appointment on a temporary basis by-passing Congress which was in recess at the time.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sent the Czech people a message of sympathy on the death of Czech senator Jiří Dienstbier. In a condolence letter sent on behalf of the US administration, Ms. Clinton said senator Dienstbier’s courage and vision during the communist years had helped bring about the fall of communism in his homeland. Jiří Dienstbier will always be remembered as talented journalist, a brave dissident and a defender of human rights. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and three children, the US Secretary of State said in her open letter to the Czech people.
Meanwhile, people around the country and at Czech embassies abroad have started signing condolence books. They will be able to pay their last respects to the senator at the Senate on Friday morning. A private funeral is to be held on Friday afternoon.
A Prague court has opened a case against a midwife who has been charged with negligence resulting in grievous bodily harm. The baby survived, but due to problems during the birth suffered irreversible brain damage. Medics who were called to the scene said they found the newborn baby was suffering from hypothermia and laboratory tests showed it had been cut off from its oxygen supply for a brief period. The midwife is pleading not guilty, saying she has not neglected anything and could not be held responsible for the child’s condition. If found guilty, she could face between 6 months and four years in prison.
The Czech minister of culture, Jiří Besser and representatives of the country’s churches and religious groups on Wednesday agreed on a salary freeze for the clergy until 2014. Mr Besser said the agreement was a necessary prerequisite for a broader deal on the restitution of church property. Wednesday’s agreement will mean that churches and other religious groups will get the same amount of money from the state disregarding the number of people they employ. The Czech Republic has not yet adopted the concept of separation of church and state; the lower house of Parliament rejected in 2008 a bill introducing the separation.
The Czech economy is on the rebound, riding on a wave of German growth, the AP agency reported on Wednesday. The country’s latest monthly PMI index, for September, is the highest in the region – coming in at 58, up from 57.3 in August – and the highest since August 2007, before the onset of the global crisis. With exports accounting for about 70 per cent of GDP, sales of cars, car parts and other industrial goods to Germany are lifting the Czech Republic out of last year’s gloom – when the economy contracted by 4 per cent. The view is so positive that Barclays Capital estimates that GDP growth this year will come in at 2.2 per cent and next year at 2.8 per cent, the agency says.
Police have uncovered an illegal marihuana plantation in Kladno, near Prague, the CTK news agency reported on Wednesday. Officers, who were alerted to the activity due to a significantly higher electricity consumption, confiscated close to two thousand fully grown plants. Two people have been charged.
The number of centenarians in the Czech population is steadily on the increase, the CTK news agency reports. There are currently 502 people over a hundred living in the country and another 411 are set to celebrate their 100th birthday in the course of this year. The country’s oldest inhabitant was born in 1903.
The Czech Hydro-meteorological institute has issued a flood alert warning in view of the upcoming thaw. Towns and villages in the southern and western parts of the country are at increased risk, with smaller rivers already swollen with melting snow. Temperatures over the weekend are expected to reach 11 degrees Celsius and forecasters are moreover predicting rain.
The coming days are expected to bring mild weather with rain in places and day temperatures between 5 and 11 degrees Celsius.