23. 8. 2010
The Prague Psychiatric Centre (PPC) issues this progress report in a time that is scientifically in a sense an apex of its fifty-year history, but economically the hardest and most difficult ever. Compared to similar institutions, formally linked to the Academy of Science or to universities, departmental research institutes get negligible funding, even marginal in terms of „scientific mainstream“. The former so called „Ministry of Health Research Base“ is today limited to therapeutic and preventive care supplemented by several grants from Internal Grant Agency of the Ministry of Health. This would by itself be enough to sustain institutions that once were part of the scheme, but PPC is different from others in that its financing ratio (research to health care) is quite the opposite: economically speaking diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive care takes 15-20% while scientific research 80-85% of PPC's budget. This ratio resembles that of exclusive research institutions like institutes of the Czech Academy of Science, but formally being under the Ministry of Health the PPC shares the fate of all institutions whose main source of income, so called “research plan”, was actually halved with nothing to compensate for it.
Said situation appears unsustainable and the PPC has reached a crossroads where it has to decide its further course. The PPC therefore struggles to acquire a project from the EU operational programme „Research and Development for Innovations“, which would upgrade the institution to a form that corresponds to its intellectual potential and research know-how, unique in the field of psychiatry. The question for the Ministry of Health is whether our country is able and willing to afford such a neuropsychiatric research centre. If not, it will lose a professional elite which can put its talents to work anywhere in the world. I myself remain optimistic even knowing that to participate on our destiny is for us, who work in the PPC, getting progressively harder and to strive for progress in our field more and more laborious. Table on p.22 states hard data to testify this. Growth of solved grants during last four years only is almost exponential; while in 2005 three grants were being solved simultaneously, in 2009 there were twenty four. Funding nevertheless stagnates. PPC also solves some problems in collaboration with its partners (p.23 and below) and participates in contracted research for pharmaceutical industry (pp.26&27). Table on p.30 shows how the overall output of our clinical department grows in spite of unchanging number of doctors, not only in bed occupancy but also in quantity of point-assessed interventions. Work on institutional forensic expert's opinions for courts almost doubled during the past year. PPC also carries a heavy burden of tuition, as it participates in teaching of third, fourth and fifth year medical students, second and third year Physiotherapy undergraduates, second and third year Public Health undergraduates and first and second year General Nursing undergraduates. In doctor's programme the teaching is done simultaneously in English. The PPC also trains postgraduate students (PhD programme), who are quite successful in completing their studies (three in the last year).
Periodic seminars given by PPC for all colleagues not only from PPC and Mental Hospital Bohnice, but from the whole region, cover a wide spectrum of scientific topics from the usage of DNA chips in identification of genes responsible for various disorders to electrophysiological imaging methods to classification systems to psychotherapy and working with ethnic minorities. PPC also continually participates in several specific areas like memory and cognitive training, not only practically and preventively, but also didactically – e.g. by publishing memory training methodical handbook.
PPC's ample publication covers besides psychiatry itself also information services for a wider spectrum of customers. PPC published e.g. Czech Psychiatrist Directory, Handbook for Users of the Czech Version of the WHO Quality of Life in Advanced Age Questionnaire etc. PPC researchers repeatedly win various awards for best publications or posters at international conferences and publish in prestigious foreign journals like Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences etc. Nevertheless the number of doctors and staff in general dropped off between 2008 and 2009. Investment possibilities are negligible (p.52). It is hard to imagine another scientific institution so successful with such meagre funding. Among other medical disciplines psychiatry has been underprivileged for hundreds of years. We can for now live on the enjoyment our work gives us, but the situation is not sustainable in the long term.