Doctors around the country closed down their offices on Thursday in protest at late payments from the state-run health insurance company VZP. Around a fifteen hundred demonstrators gathered in front of the Health Ministry building in Prague in support of the private doctors' strike. The doctors were joined in the demonstration by pharmacists and dentists, and by some politicians from the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats.
During the protest there were calls for the resignation of the Health Minister Milada Emmerova, who was blamed for the current cash-flow crisis. Talks between Mrs Emmerova and doctors are to continue after a two-hour meeting on Thursday afternoon ended in deadlock.
The legal committee of the European Parliament has recommended that MEP Vladimir Zelezny, the former director of the Czech commercial television station Nova, be stripped of immunity. The final decision is to be made at an EP plenary session in late October. At a closed meeting, the committee approved the proposal by the rapporteur, Austrian Social Democrat Marie Berger, that Mr Zelezny should be put at the disposal of Czech authorities to investigate three charges, for which the Czech judiciary had asked for his parliamentary immunity to be removed.
The Austrian firm OMV has taken over the Czech chain of petrol filling stations Aral. OMV's director said that they planned to invest up to 5 million US dollars in the chain. He said that Aral stations will all adopt the OMV logo within the next six months, but he would not say how much OMV had paid for the company. The deal will make OMV the chain selling the largest volume of car fuel in the Czech Republic. The Polish petrochemicals concern PKN Orlen had also been interested in buying Aral.
Forty-four people were injured in a coach accident on the D1 motorway in the direction of the Moravian capital Brno on Thursday morning. Czech police say the coach with tourists from Germany slammed into the back end of a truck. Three helicopters and nineteen ambulances rushed to the scene of the accident. Seven people, including the coach driver, are in critical condition.
A billboard campaign has been launched to warn drivers to approach railway crossings with caution. There will also be warnings published in Czech newspapers. The campaign will be financed till the end of the year by Czech Railways, and a sponsor is being sought for it to continue next year. In 2004 there were no less than 600 hundred accidents on railway crossings, nearly a quarter of which do not have barriers. The Transport Minister, Milan Simonovsky, pointed out that, ironically, most accidents are on crossings where visibility is good.
We can expect more bright and mild weather for the time of year leading into the weekend, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures up to 19 degrees Celsius.
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