Helena Rögnerová: No battle is lost in advance
Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo: David Holas
When Helena Rögnerová (48) became the director of the Motol Teaching Hospital, she called on then-health minister David to resign, and later defeated senate chairwoman Libuše Benešová by a full 50% margin, thus becoming an independent senator. After not quite three years in the senate, she says that she has to learn patience and the art of consensus.
ALTHOUGH Rögnerová originally wanted to study medicine, she wound up graduating in economics. But she never gave up her original calling, and until 1989 she worked as a health administrator. In 1996, her victory in the tender for the directorship of the largest state hospital, with over 4,000 employees, surprised just about everyone. She had no influential lobbyists behind her, and she was the first woman-manager to be named to such a position. After finding her bearings, she introduced crisis management and did away with unethical practices. “At Motol, corruption was a big problem,” Rögnerová explains. It didn’t take her long to run into problems. The energetic director accused Ivan David, then health minister, of irregular behavior and of insisting on using a catering company that was more expensive than others. She brought the matter to public attention and proposed that the minister resign.
In 2000 she decided run for the senate as an independent candidate on the Quad Coalition slate against Libuše Benešová, then the senate’s chairwoman, in her own district. She wore shorts and rode a bicycle when she went to address her voters, covering about 1,000 kilometers during her campaign. Her human approach gained her a seat in the upper chamber of the parliament. “At the beginning I couldn’t get used to the never-ending discussions and the fact that everything takes much longer than I was used to,” she recalls, pointing out that community politics differs greatly from a senator’s duties. Nonetheless, she managed to found a Club of Independents and push through the law on the EU accession referendum. “The idea of a senator as some sort of ombudsman is deeply rooted in people,” she explains. “Unfortunately, no single person can help everyone from a district with 100,000 inhabitants. I try to facilitate their communication with local authorities and show them how to exert their rights.”
What does her future have in store? “I don’t rule out running for the senate again in 2006, but if it doesn’t work out I’d be happy to take a job as a manager,” she says optimistically.