He speaks of the role of the Minister of Health as a “suicide mission”. Still, he’s ready to grab her. In an interview with Seznam Zprávy, the current head of the TOP 09 deputies and the renowned radiologist Vlastimil Válek describes in detail what tasks await the new head of the ministry. “The return of healthcare fees is a complete hoax,” says the 61-year-old Brno doctor.
The public dismisses you as the main candidate for the post of Minister of Health. Are you even interested in it?
If the chairmen of the parties agree in this way and take me as the best possible option, then of course it is my responsibility and duty to go for it.
After all, when one looks back at the last year, four ministers have taken over this post. This is probably not a position that everyone in the new coalition would fight for.
I think it’s a completely suicidal mission. I have repeatedly said that the ministry is in total decay. On the other hand, we have many capable people in the Coalition Together. We have Roman Kraus as the former director of the University Hospital Brno, associate professor Bohuslav Svoboda, who is well versed in healthcare, we have Tom Phillip, who has been a deputy in the resort for a long time. There is also Vít Kaňkovský, who has his health and social boundaries in place, and I could name another one. There is an anticovid team that is preparing a plan for how healthcare should work for a year.
So when will it be clear about the post?
I am 100% sure that Prime Minister Fiala – I have no reason to address him otherwise – will introduce the government to the first session of the House. I said repeatedly: Minister Vojtěch will end on November 1. We do not now have a president who can appoint a successor. The number of patients with covid is increasing, increasing in ICUs. The situation is not over yet. It is absurd for the health sector to be without a minister from November.
I’ll ask another question. You are the vice-chairman of TOP 09. Is the party interested in this resort in the government at all?
This is a question to which there is no good answer. The health care sector is very complicated and it is difficult for a political party to score points on it. I think that TOP 09 is able to offer quality experts in the management of the resort. But the ODS and KDU-ČSL are in exactly the same situation.
You are a respected doctor, radiologist. Would you respect the new challenge?
I always have respect, and yet I embark on performances that are sometimes very complicated. Now I did thermoablation of the kidneys (removal of the tumor by heat – editor’s note) and I almost couldn’t keep up with fear… But seriously, the head of the Senate Medical Committee is the former director of the Brno University Hospital Roman Kraus. Surely someone similarly capable will be the head of the health committee in the Chamber of Deputies, and thus the new Minister of Health – whoever it is – has a huge chance to become part of a triumvirate of people who are able to prepare and push laws. We are ready to combine the best of the Julian and Hegerian strategies. Both had a number of positives, unfortunately at the wrong time, or had unfortunate points. We also have a lot of colleagues who have been left because they have not done enough rectal mountaineering towards the current Prime Minister Babiš, and yet they are world-renowned experts in management management in healthcare. From this point of view, I do not think it is unsolvable. It will be a huge task, no minister would last four years. It probably won’t be an exception even now. On the other hand, no minister had a crazy prime minister, Vojtěch until now. However, I do not think that the name of the new minister will be pulled out of the hat again every two months.
So how should the resort change?
It is true that the implementation of this plan will require quite a lot of effort, relatively enough money, as well as time and patience. It won’t solve anything by mistake for a hundred days. It is essential that we stabilize the ministry in our presidency of the European Union, where healthcare is one of the main topics. And on that basis, we should leave the Union with as many things as possible, in terms of central policy and the price of medicines. It is also about building at least one large institute that will be linked to our research institutes and will need to be able to produce vaccines. These are things we definitely need to get. I see this as the first year of the new minister.
Older people in particular are already talking about the new government reintroducing health care fees. What do you think?
It’s a complete hoax. The opposite is true. It’s not about fees, but about making sure that everyone who pays for a lot of procedures, for example with a tooth or back pain, can decide. We want you to be able to take out additional insurance for everything you pay for now. It would be up to every citizen. It’s like deciding whether to attach a windshield to your car.
It is necessary to define the standard of health care. This is well under way and all professional companies are involved, it just has to be transformed into a methodologically clear standard that would be linked to the insurance company. It is also a possible space for a separate department at the ministry or individual work for one deputy.
It will be a huge task, no minister would last four years. It probably won’t be an exception even now. On the other hand, no minister had a crazy prime minister, Vojtěch until now.
What other changes will be needed?
It must reach into education. We agreed across the anticovid team that it is necessary to invest in the tribe (fields of education) so that it is paid from the state budget, and also to address the remuneration of trainers. In return, however, the ministry must have a much greater opportunity to control the quality of educational fields.
And then we can talk about other things that are being prepared. For example, reimbursement for state insured persons cannot be done to just increase something. It must be determined by law how the payments will be linked to the state budget, or to GDP or the average wage. This is for discussion.
If you became a minister, what would you do first, even with the rising numbers of people infected with the covid?
This is important, of course. But first it will be necessary to stabilize the Ministry of Health. To complete his ranks and make it a usable team, because there have been several brutal exchanges of deputies and union directors in the last year. It is not possible, for example, for a section of education to be led by one person and to have a single subordinate if he is to take care of all certifications. It is not possible that there is no department of digitization, which is absolutely crucial in terms of cybersecurity.
For covid, the reproductive number R is now declining, but the number of patients in ICUs is increasing. This will need to be discussed. I have made it clear what we are planning as an anticovid team, and it doesn’t matter who the minister is.
If I were a minister, I would convene all the irreconcilable groups first. Then one takes advantage of the fact that he either knows these people personally or knows them so that they do not dare to refuse, and forces them to reach a consensus. The management of the Czech Medical Society should work on it much more. It does not have to be a unified position, but it needs to be addressed.
The president of the republic is key to the appointment of the government. According to you, is he now able to perform his function?
I’m a doctor. I’m not in a position to say any information. I will brutally insist that the Office of the President of the Republic behave as any office of the President in any normal civilized country behaves.
That is, to clearly state the status of the president and whether he is able to perform his duties. If so, the office must be liable. Or he is not capable. The president’s office now acts as a former politburo in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, concealing the death of one of the secretaries-general for two days. I very much wish the President to recover. He has a very nice family. The man is not the embodiment of evil. As an actor in the revolution, the prime minister or chairman of the Chamber of Deputies has taken a number of steps for the benefit of the citizens, and he does not deserve the office to abuse his indisposition and play with him as a figurine. And I’m starting to feel more and more that he’s abusing the president’s office. It is bad.