TOURISM: Spas boost the travel industry
Spas have become the fastest growing sector of the domestic travel industry. In 2002 more than 300,000 visitors came to Czech spas, and the regional development industry expects annual growth of 1,000 people. Besides the best known spas, the popularity of smaller facilities is rising as well, in the Moravian-Silesian region and southern Moravia, for instance, where investments are being made into construction to increase capacity. Spas will extend the tourist season and create new jobs in the regions. Supporting spas is one of the five priorities of the Czech Travel Industry headquarters, which intends to focus primarily on tourists from Russia, Germany, and Arabian countries, which already account for 38% of all Czech spa clients. Another influx of foreigners can be expected after the Czech Republic joins the EU, as foreign health insurance programs will then cover stays at Czech spas.

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MEDICAL SECTOR : Patients not afraid to complain
The Czech Republic is catching up with western Europe in the number of legal disputes and complaints concerning medical care. Patients with grievances may direct their complaint to several institutions – Czech medical chamber (ČLK), regional town hall, Ministry of Health, or their health insurance company. There is no central register, but the number of complaints filed with ČLK alone quadrupled during the last four years to the current 1,000 a year. “The most frequent complaints concern the behavior of the doctor, which is the most difficult case to resolve. Very often it’s just statement against statement,” says David Rath, president of ČLK. Other complaints include the quality of medical care and the choice of medical procedures. The preparation of new medical legislation is in process, which should allow stricter punishment of incompetent doctors. Doctors, however, consider such legislation discriminatory.

SOCIETY: Corruption study points the finger
A brand-new study, the Index of Perception of Corruption 2002, issued by the organization Transparency International, does not make very encouraging reading for citizens of the Czech Republic. The index, which covers 102 countries this year, indicates the degree of perceived abuse of public office for personal benefit – i.e., the existence of corruption among public administration officials and politicians. The rating ranges from ten (zero corruption) to zero (absolute corruption). In 2002, citizens rated the situation in the Czech Republic at 3.7 in the rankings, which is led by Finland with 9.7. The Czech Republic trails not only all EU member states, but also the other candidate countries of central and eastern Europe, with only Romanians (2.6) seeing corruption in their own country in a worse light.

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