Interviews

Vít Kaňkovský: Complex pension reform is essential

Published: 12. 4. 2022
Author: Šárka Jansová
Photo: Photo archives of Vít Kaňkovský
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Chairman of the Chamber's Committee on Social Policy, regional representative, chief of medicine of the Department of Central Operating Theaters of Havlíčkův Brod Hospital, orthopedist and traumatologist, Vít Kaňkovský, confided in us that politics often goes hand in hand with negative emotion. Conversely, he often gains positive energy when he is among his patients in the hospital.

Is there anyone particularly wise in your life who has been an inspiration to you?

Humanist and doctor, Albert Schweitzer, has been a big inspiration to me for many years. I am often reminded of what he once said, “Open your eyes and look for some man, or some work for the sake of men, which needs a little time, a little friendship, a little sympathy, a little sociability, a little human toil. It may be a person who is lonely, bitter, sick, struggling, someone to whom you can mean something. It may be an old man or a child. Do not be deterred if you have to wait or experiment. Be prepared for disappointment. Show your humanity to people.”

How do you, as an orthopedist, see current musculoskeletal treatment options?

Orthopedics is an advanced field that can help alleviate, or rid people of, pain associated with the musculoskeletal system and it gives mobility back to many thanks to a wide array of surgical procedures. Some patients are literally able to get back on their feet thanks to a successful surgery. Endoprosthetics has developed immensely in the last twenty years thanks to better materials, but also the design of artificial joints and less invasive surgical procedures. I am glad to see that artificial joints work well in the vast majority of patients. One musculoskeletal system disease group presents a much bigger challenge, though, and those are degenerative spine conditions. Surgical methods can also be beneficial there, but a rather large percentage of diagnoses show causes that are difficult to eliminate and we are forced to treat our patients using conservative methods with the help of neurologists and rehabilitation. The current extended waiting times for artificial joints as well as other important planned procedures due to the Covid pandemic are a nightmare for us, orthopedists, and especially our patients. We are in for difficult times in this regard, and we have to do our utmost to help people who are suffering pain, some of whom have even stopped being able to walk, as soon as possible.

The pandemic has impacted the world all over, it has also often tested people's character. Do you see it that way too?

I see the Covid pandemic as the biggest challenge since World War II not only for our country but all of humanity. Two years ago, it would have been hard for anyone to imagine that we could live through such a long period with so many unprecedented restrictions in all aspects of our lives, and even harder to imagine how many people would ultimately die of a new kind of Coronavirus disease. Even in the hospital where I work, we treated hundreds of Covid patients and despite all the workers' best efforts, we have witnessed many tragic stories. It was more than just the deaths of older people who had many other diseases. Sadly, very young people, mothers and fathers of young children also died of Covid...

You and the KDU-ČSL are focused on providing accessible healthcare throughout all of Czechia. Are there many areas here that struggle with access to it?

I live in the Vysočina Region, which has a lot of smaller towns and villages, and we are facing serious shortages of pediatricians and stomatological care. Finding a dentist is simply not possible for a lot of people. What is more, Vysočina has no university hospitals, and so certain types of specialized care are also missing here. Other regions are facing a similar situation. That is why we are pushing for favorable compensation for doctors who are willing to relocate their practice from big cities to the country. We also plan to set straight the unjust healthcare compensation in hospitals. There is still inequality in how certain procedures are compensated in region-managed as compared to university hospitals.

What have you, as the chairman of the Chamber's Committee on Social Policy, managed to do for people with disabilities?

I am coming on my third election term in the Chamber, and throughout the previous eight years, I have tried to put forth bills that would improve the situation for people with disabilities, the elderly, and families. I will point out two amendments to the Act on Granting Benefits to Persons with Disabilities, which led to extending the benefits that people with disabilities are able to collect for the aids they need for their everyday lives. It also meant relief for families of autistic persons who can now collect benefits for the running of a motor vehicle. I have proposed repeatedly that additional funding be provided for the running of social services, which are much needed by both the elderly and people with disabilities and their families. I also put forth a bill to amend the Labor Law that would make it easier for mothers to come back to work from maternity leave and to harmonize work and family life. I will keep this up in the current election term as well, I am hard at work on it already in conjunction with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, headed by Marian Jurečka, as well as my colleagues in the Chamber.

Where do you see the weak points of elderly care?

The elderly are a very important group to our platform, even more so due to how much their numbers are increasing. We have to keep developing all forms of social services, especially mobile ones, and support families that care for their loved ones. Making sure the elderly have options that allow them to stay active is an important objective of ours – we need to work on making the required rehabilitation and activity options more accessible. And last but not least, we have to find a way to finally get around to pension reform.

Parenthood is a core tenet of the KDU-ČSL platform. In the past, you have managed to push through joint taxation for married couples, longer maternity leave, or increased tax deductions for children. Is it enough?

We need to keep at it and talk openly about the quality of life of parents and what we can do to help them. Czech families with children are being discriminated against, you see. Even though parents have to work that much harder with every other child they have, they are doing even worse than the elderly when it comes to total net income per capita. Families need stability and more time. And allowing them to find a way to harmonize work and family life is essential. We tried proposing some steps when we were in the opposition, but the ruling ANO and ČSSD at the time did not support them. We will most certainly come back to that now.

You were also advocating for equal old-age pension for women who receive two thousand CZK less on average due to caring for children. Is that going well?

At the end of the last election term, our long-term proposal to increase old-age pension for mothers by 500 CZK for each child they have raised has been accepted, which I see as a big step forward. We are now working on certain other, smaller changes to the pension system, but as I have already mentioned, complex pension reform is essential now.

Also under your purview as chairman of the Committee on Social Policy is care for maladjusted citizens, which is closely connected to crime, drugs, but also welfare fraud. What are the solutions to this long-lasting issue?

There are no simple solutions. The issue of excluded areas and so-called maladjusted citizens is growing to be more and more alarming. I am happy that a subcommittee was formed under our committee's jurisdiction that will investigate these matters in depth. It is a matter that is also very important to the MLSA and the entire government.

How is the city of Třešť where you live – and are a representative of – doing?

We have been forced to make budget cuts due to inflation and the danger that public finances are in due to the Covid pandemic, energy crisis, etc. We are being very thorough in examining different investments and ways to cut back on the city's operating costs. From a long-term perspective, we have done a lot of work on reducing the amount of unsorted communal waste and its disposal. We are at the very top of the Vysočina Region when it comes to waste sorting. I see the construction of a new open-air swimming pool in the form of a modern biotope as a big success for Třešť. We have also managed to put in motion a complex general reconstruction of the main highway leading through the city, and much more.

You have four children. Are you a strict, conscientious dad or are you more liberal?

Our children would be the ones to tell you that... [laughs] But I think I am a little bit of both. I may be strict in some matters, but I am liberal in many others when it comes to raising my children and I try to give them enough freedom to form their own opinions and plan for the future.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have a hobby?

Spending time with my family always makes me happy, it is essential to me. Other than that, I am known to be an avid musician, so grabbing a guitar, plucking a few strings, and singing some songs is immensely relaxing for me. I also like biking through our wonderful Vysočina Region. And lately, I have been spending a lot of time in the woods because my father and I own several plots of forest that have been damaged by bark beetle so we are reinvigorating our land, planting and planting...

CV

Vít Kaňkovský (born February 5, 1970, in Brno) is a doctor, MP, representative of the Vysočina Region, and long-standing representative of the city of Třešť.

He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Masaryk University. Initially, he worked as a physician in the Brothers of Charity Hospital in Brno, later moving to the Orthopedics Ward of the Jihlava Hospital. He has been at the Havlíčkův Brod Hospital since the year 2000, he was the director between 2006-2011, and has been the chief of medicine of the Department of Central Operating Theatres and Sterilization since 2012.

Kaňkovský entered politics as independent for the KDU-ČSL and was elected a representative of Třešť in 1998. He has been a regional representative of the Vysočina Region since 2012. He joined the KDU-ČSL in 2013, got elected to the Chamber, and has remained an MP running since then.

He is married, he lives with his wife Magdalena in Třešť together with their four children.

Gentleman of the Road

Vít Kaňkovský received the Gentleman of the Road award for helping a seriously injured motorcycle rider. What actually happened? “It was a coincidence. I was driving to a neighboring village to pick up my daughter, and when exiting Třešť, there was a tragic accident in which a young motorcycle rider was seriously injured. Fortunately, there were a number of selfless people close by, including a nurse, and we managed to keep the young man conscious in time for the ambulance to get there, using just what was available in a car first-aid kit. After being transported via helicopter to a trauma center, he survived the initially fatal-looking injuries. I was very happy about that, but I did not see it as anything exceptional personally – it was my duty as a doctor and a human being to do everything within my power to save his life. What brought me the most joy was not the award, but the fact that we managed to save a young person's life. 

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