Union leaders and spa owners have called for a halt to changes and cuts made to the healthcare system before the country's spas disappear altogether. They have called for an urgent meeting with the health minister. The recent changes have forced spa owners to reduce the length of treatments and caused a reduction in payouts by health insurers. According to reports, doctors are becoming increasingly afraid to prescribe spa treatment even though it is still within their power to prescribe. Bohdaneč Therapeutic Spa fell from 213 million Kč in 2011 to 198 million Kč last year, with profits dropping by 21 percent. In 2012, approximately 32 percent of patients had their stays partly or fully covered by insurance.
Opponents of the church restitution law are penning a letter to Pope Francis asking him to prevent the return of state-owned property to the Catholic Church. The letter's authors, which include writer Lenka Procházková and filmmaker Václav Dvořák, say they want to collect further signatures before sending it on to the Vatican, thereby turning it into a petition. In the letter, which will go via Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka, the authors highlight the pope's own beliefs that the church should serve the poor. They say the return of property has split Czech society and the law isn't based on ethical or legal grounds. Under restitution, 16 churches are to be returned real estate worth 75 billion Kč and given 59 billion Kč in financial compensation over 30 years.
The trial of influential lobbyist Roman Janoušek is set to get under way in July, daily Lidové noviny reported May 14. Janoušek is charged with attempted murder after a hit-and-run accident in March 2012 and could face up to 18 years behind bars if found guilty. According to presiding judge Tomáš Kubovec, the media will be allowed in court to report on the highly anticipated case, which had looked to have been shelved after Janoušek paid an undisclosed sum to his victim, a Vietnamese woman, last year. She suffered serious injuries when the businessman, who had been drinking alcohol, ran her over before speeding away. Janoušek is infamous for his links to former Prague Mayor Pavel Bém and other politicians.
A new hearing into the case of Qatari Prince Hamid Bin Abdul Sani al-Thani, who is accused of having sex with underage girls in 2005, can only start if police detain him on the basis of a European or international arrest warrant, Prague 2 District Court spokeswoman Marcela Pröllerová has said. The court cannot pursue a trial against him as a fugitive, she added. Al-Thani was originally sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and ordered to leave the country, but the state attorney and Al-Thani's defense lawyer appealed. Al-Thani spent 340 days in Czech custody, but following a decision from then-Justice Minister Pavel Němec, the case was never heard by an appellate court. The prince was extradited to Qatar, where authorities say he has served his punishment.
Obecní dům is currently home to one of the city's most popular current must-sees: Only a month after the opening, 50,000 visitors will have seen a unique exhibition that features an unprecedented, nearly complete collection of posters by the celebrated Art Nouveau painter, Alfons Mucha. The collection is owned by the former tennis player Ivan Lendl. The 50,000th visitor was expected May 14, organizers revealed. Another recent exhibition in Prague that saw a similarly high turnout (almost 49,000 visitors) was one dedicated to the work of the 20th century avant-garde painter František Kupka. "Ivan Lendl: Alfons Mucha" continues its run until the end of July.
A public tender to renovate the National Museum's historic main building on Wenceslas Square was launched May 13. The proposals under consideration received will be revealed at the end of August. The Finance and Culture ministries approved the tender in April. Though the main building of the museum will retain its historic facade, designed by architect Josef Schulz, in the future visitors will be able to enjoy a modern, 21st-century exhibition venue, according to representatives. One of the most prominent elements of the renovation is a tunnel connecting the main building with a sister-site that once served as the Parliament seat in former Czechoslovakia.
A ceremony in honor of Roma Holocaust victims took place May 13 at the Lety memorial in south Bohemia, attended by Cardinal Dominik Duka, a number of foreign ambassadors, cultural dignitaries and Roma representatives. The Lety memorial, unveiled in 1995 by then-President Václav Havel, is located close to the site of a former concentration camp for Roma where some 300 prisoners lost their lives and from where hundreds of others were transported to Auschwitz. Despite controversy over a pig farm being located on the site of the former camp, the government repeatedly claims it lacks the funds to purchase the farm and remove it.
President Miloš Zeman will pay a visit to Poland May 23-24. The visit, during which Zeman will meet with his Polish counterpart, President Bronisław Komorowski, will continue Zeman's tour of the Czech Republic's neighbors after his election at the beginning of the year. Zeman's two-day trip to Poland will be the third foreign visit after those to Austria and Slovakia. A plan to visit Germany in the next six months is also in the works. Zeman's visit to Poland occurs shortly after Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas conducted talks in Warsaw with his Polish counterpart, Donald Tusk, May 13.