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Czech doctors protest conditions, threaten exodus

Czech doctors and leaders of their professional bodies demonstrated here Thursday over working conditions, warning of a mass exodus abroad unless conditions improve.

„Czech doctors work up to 300 hours a month and their overtime hours and emergency service often counts for half of their income,” the head of the doctors' union, LOK, Martin Engel, told AFP. „That must change. Otherwise doctors will go to where they are better appreciated,” he added. About 100 Czech doctors and leaders of their professional associations took part in the rally, taking the protest to the centre of Prague by boarding a boat which cruised up and down the Vltava river displaying banners with messages such as „Tired doctors,” and „We will slip the anchor.” „None of you want to be operated on Monday by a doctor who has been on permanent duty at the hospital since Friday morning,” said Milan Kubek, head of the Czech doctors' chamber.

Czech doctors have already begun leaving the country, mostly to seek work in Britain and Germany, Kubek added. The average monthly salary of a Czech doctor, including overtime, is about 40,000 koruna (€1,420, $1,923) compared with 180,000 koruna ($8650) in Germany, Kubek said. Every year, around 400 Czech doctors are leaving the country, increasingly dependent on finding its own foreign staff to fill the gaps, he added. About 1,600 foreign doctors, 1,300 of them from neighboring Slovakia, already staff Czech hospitals, he said. (