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Last Updated: Monday, 31 December 2007, 11:56 GMT
Czechs grumble at doctors' fees
By Rob Cameron
BBC News, Prague

Blood pressure test
The era of free consultations is over for Czech patients
The Czech healthcare system undergoes a minor revolution on 1 January as patients are asked to pay a small fee each time they visit their doctor.

The move is part of a widespread reform of the health sector unveiled by the centre-right government.

It is far from popular - a number of leading figures are calling on Czechs not to pay up.

Czechs enjoyed free healthcare during four decades of communist rule and in the past 17 years of capitalism.

But from 1 January, Czech patients will be asked to pay 30 crowns (0.83; 1.1 euros) for each visit to the doctor, and 60 crowns for each day spent in hospital.

The centre-right government wants to streamline what it says is a chronically wasteful health service and stop people abusing the system.

Numerous studies have shown Czechs spend more time on sick leave than anyone else in Europe.

But critics of the new law deny the Czech people are a nation of malingerers, and point out the fees will be levied on top of compulsory health insurance payments deducted from people's salaries.

A group of left-wing MPs say charging people to see their doctor contravenes the country's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and have appealed to the constitutional court.

A number of public figures are calling on people to break the law and refuse to pay, at least until the court reaches a decision.

Country profile: Czech Republic
22 Sep 07 |  Country profiles

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