The country’s health minister, Leoš Heger signed an instruction on Monday for the heads of the state hospitals to raise doctors' salaries between 5,000 to 8,000 crowns per month, starting at the beginning of March. The embattled health minister promised doctors an additional 1.5 billion crowns last week, trying to stave off a serious crisis in the health sector which will be set off if around 3,800 doctors leave their jobs on March 1st. They are dissatisfied with their wages and said earlier the raise was not enough. Organisers of the protest have called for additional funds and guarantees. Unless the government and organisers of the protest reach a breakthrough soon, facilities affected will very soon have to take emergency steps, regional governors have warned. On Monday, for example, hospitals in the Vysočany announced they would stop accepting new patients scheduled for surgery after February 14th – roughly two weeks before protesting doctors leave their jobs. Other crisis measures are also being prepared.
The police trade unions are preparing to send a petition to police officers calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Radek John, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Monday, saying the petition would be sent out when austerity measures slashing police salaries by 10 percent came into effect. Milan Štepánek, the head of the Czech Republic’s Independent Police Trade Union, said the interior minister had not secured enough funds for salaries or operational costs. Due to the cuts, the police will - on average – make 3,000 crowns less per month. Their income was also lowered last year, when some regional police headquarters stopped paying extra for overtime as well as risk bonuses. Mr John has countered his critics by saying that he is the first minister to suffer such a reduced budget: this year, the Interior Ministry received 52.9 billion crowns, almost seven billion crowns less than a year ago.
Former prime minister Jan Fischer, who led a caretaker government halfway through the Czech EU presidency in 2009, has said he would “definitely run” for the post of Czech president in 2013 if the country’s politicians succeed in introducing direct presidential elections. Mr Fischer, currently Vice President for Operational Policies at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), made the statement speaking to Parlamentní listy in Prague on Monday. Current President Václav Klaus’ second and final term ends in 2013. As prime minister, Mr Fischer enjoyed highly favourable numbers among the public, polls repeatedly suggested. The current government is presently working on a proposal to change the presidential election system, a move also being sought by the opposition Social Democrats. Negotiations on the issue, however, could well prove difficult, given differences on voting methods as well as over potential changes to presidential powers. Currently the country’s president is elected every five years in a joint session of both houses of Parliament.
The Czech Republic’s industrial output rose by 10.5 percent in 2010, according to government figures released on Monday. In December 2010, industrial production rose by 12.7 percent year-on-year. The automotive industry, together with metal working and machinery production were the major factors in the surge. The previous year, industrial output was down by 13.6 percent. Analysts said revived foreign demand, particularly in Germany, worked as a boost for the Czech economy.
Two private investment groups have offered a lifeline to Czech lottery giant Sazka, facing an insolvency claim after failing to make a bond payment in January. The dominant Czech lottery operator said on Monday that it had agreed to take on Penta Investments and E-Invest as financial partners who would take operating control of the company and a share of future profits but no equity in the firm. Sazka is owned by the Czech sports unions, which use profits to fund sports in the country. The head of the sports unions, Pavel Kořan, said on Monday the firms would provide Sazka with full financial stability, while E-Invest head Martin Ulčák confirmed the company was ready to invest what was needed in order to end - as soon as possible - insolvency proceedings against the lottery firm.
The Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes has reported that the heiress to the Walderode noble family, Johanna Kammerlander, is a step closer to getting back property that was confiscated by the Czech authorities after World War II. The district court in Jablonec ruled in her favour, saying she had the right to a farmstead, forestland, meadows and other immovable assets. During the war the property belonged to the family’s Karl des Fours Walderode; an ethnic German, he was stripped of it in 1946 under the post-war Benes decrees. He was returned Czechoslovak citizenship in 1947 but the property was never given back. After that he emigrated and lost citizenship again after the Communists assumed power in 1948. The verdict has not taken effect yet and it is expected that appeals will be filed, Mladá fronta Dnes writes.
The number of cars registered to Czech drivers inched closer to 4.5 million in 2010, with 61,180 vehicles added to the overall total of 4,496,000 in the country’s registry. The number of cars listed, both new and second-hand, would have been higher but was tempered by the thousands of vehicles that were written off or sold abroad the same year. According to the statistics the average age of cars on Czech roads was 13.7 years.
The district court in Liberec on Monday sentenced Ondřej Riedl to 3.5 years in prison for a theft committed in the village of Chrastava last August. The 25-year-old, who pleaded guilty, noticed 45,000 crowns (around 2.5 thousand US dollars) in flood relief funds while visiting a family he knew personally and was supposed to help. Instead, he disappeared with the money. After his arrest, Mr Reidl told police he had spent part of the funds gambling on slot machines and the rest on paying off a debt. Along with serving his sentence, the man will also have to pay for damages.
The South Bohemian town of České Budějovice boasted record temperatures on Monday: around 2 pm meteorologists registered 14.3 degrees Celsius in the shade. That breaks the previous record set in 2004 by 1.1 degrees, Jaroslav Hintermuller told the Czech news agency, ČTK. Dozens of locals took advantage of the sunny weather spending time on the town’s main square, the press agency said. On Monday, records were also set elsewhere throughout the Czech Republic: 15.4 degrees in nearby Byňov, or 14.8 degrees Celsius near Písek.
Footballer Karol Kisel will head back to FC Sydney from Prague club Slavia, after playing to the end of the spring season. The Slovak player on Monday expressed gratitude towards the club for allowing the move back to Australia, where he played one season in 2009/2010. In return, the player promised to do everything in his power to lift Slavia from near the bottom the standings. The team is currently 14th among 16 teams and risks relegation if they don't improve.
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