Czech doctors accept wage deal, call off walkout
PRAGUE (Reuters) - Thousands of Czech hospital doctors agreed on Wednesday to take back their resignations and accept a wage offer from the government, ending a threat of a crisis in acute care.
A lobby group of about 3,800 hospital doctors, about a fifth of the country's total, ended their threat to resign as of march 1 after the Health Ministry promised to raise monthly pay by 5,000-8,000 crowns ($278-$445).
It was the most serious pressure action on the new center-right cabinet, which has slashed the wage bill for other public sector workers to narrow the budget gap but backed off under the threat that lack of personnel would cripple a number of hospitals.
"(We) have decided to accept this offer," doctors' leader Martin Engel told a news conference. "I will call on doctors to end the 'Thanks, we are leaving' campaign."
The government is planning reforms of the health system as well as pensions and taxes in order to balance the budget by 2016, from a deficit of 4.8 percent of economic output last year.
The government discussed the Health Ministry's pay offer for the doctors earlier on Wednesday but refused to approve it until the doctors accepted it.
The addition to doctors' salaries, now at around 48,000 crowns per month on average including overtime, versus the average national monthly wage of 23,665, will come from health insurance funds and not the budget.
The overall extra cost will be about 2 billion crowns.
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