The three heavily indebted hospitals, to which distributors cut medicine supplies last week, are no longer in crisis. One distributor resumed supplies on Monday and another has pledged to do so this week after the government and health ministry promised to help cover the hospitals' 400 million crown debt. The indebted hospitals are Prague's Bulovka and Thomayer Teaching Hospital as well as the St. Anne hospital in the south Moravian city Brno.
Up to 1,000 civil servants may receive free French lessons to prepare for the country's EU presidency. The Czech government is currently in talks with the French embassy and cultural institute in Prague. The Czech Republic takes up EU presidency in 2009, and the country's officials will be expected to communicate in French and English. Classes are scheduled to begin this year. The British Council has already contributed one million crowns to the opening of a centre, where civil servants can brush up on their English.
A train collision in north Bohemia has left five people injured, one of them seriously. The morning express from Prague to Tanvald collided with a freight train just after 8 am as it was entering the Kropacov Vrutice railway station, near the town of Mlada Boleslav. Several freight wagons were derailed and the train driver is reported to be in serious condition. The track remains closed as emergency crews are working to clear the site. It is not yet clear what caused the accident.
A group of students from Charles University's Natural Science faculty have found a dinosaur bone near the town of Kutna Hora, southeast of Prague. The students were collecting fossilised shells when they came across the bone, which is suspected to be a joint from the dinosaur's back foot. The first ever dinosaur bone that was discovered in the Czech Republic was found on the same area two years ago. While palaeontologists agree that both bones come from a member of the Iguanodontidae family that lived around 95 million years ago, it has yet to be determined whether they are from one and the same dinosaur.
The Foundation for the Development of Civil Society has around 1.5 million euros at its disposal to finance projects from non-profit organisations. The grant is from the European Union's Transition Facility programme and can be used to finance any projects that are limited to one year and focus on one of a selection of topics. These include the fight against corruption or discrimination, and the protection of the environment or the consumer. The individual grant cannot exceed 50,000 euros. More information: www.nros.cz
The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and Health Minister David Rath have promised to amend a controversial directive on health care payments, according to which doctors would receive more money for treatment as of April 1st. The health minister said this was made possible by the improving financial situation of the largest state owned health insurance company VZP. The insurer's debt is said to have dropped to 7 billion crowns, down from 14 billion in the previous year. Despite the announcement, doctors are going ahead with preparations for a massive demonstration against the health minister's radical reforms next Friday. They claim that the demonstration could only be averted by the health minister's resignation or dismissal. Pharmacists and patients are expected to support the protest action.
The Czech hockey team took a beating at the hands of the Fins at the Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament on Saturday. The 4:2 defeat was the second loss in a row for the Czechs, considered a gold medal contender coming into the games. Even worse top winger Jaromir Jagr was injured when he was slammed into the boards by Jarkko Ruutu in the second period. The Czech team is already depleted by the loss of goalie Domink Hasek and forward Patrik Elias to injuries. The Czechs face Italy in a decisive match on Sunday night.
Police are investigating the cause of Saturday's gas explosion in a Prague restaurant which killed two people and injured four others. The blast shook the three story apartment block early on Saturday morning, demolishing the ground floor where several restaurant employees were working and shattering windows in the upper storeys. Fifteen residents were evacuated, while emergency crews used sniffer dogs to find people trapped in the debris. Investigators say it is likely that a gas pipeline may accidentally have been damaged during work in the building.
Olympic men's aerials champion Ales Valenta appears to have shrugged off a knee injury and will defend his title after he was named on the start list for Monday's qualification round. Valenta, a surprise winner in 2002 when he landed the difficult quintuple-twist triple backflip, injured his knee in training on Tuesday and said he did not know if he would be fit to compete. Qualification for the men's freestyle skiing aerials takes place on Monday with the finals on Thursday.
The leadership of the ruling Social Democratic party met on Saturday to try to rally support for the bill on same sex partnerships which the President's veto has sent back to the lower house. A new vote on the bill is to take place in March and its definitive approval would require a majority of 101 votes. The Social Democratic party has recommended that its deputies support the bill and it will seek stronger backing for it across the political spectrum. The bill has evoked plenty of controversy over the past seven years and the most support it ever received in the lower house was 86 votes last December. Gay rights activists fear that the President's veto could send the bill back to square one. Its approval on the other hand would make the Czech Republic the first post communist state to legalize gay marriages.