Adam Janek: Let’s not forget other healthcare and particularly prevention due to our fear of COVID-19


You could say that ophthalmology runs in Adam Janek’s blood since his father is a distinguished eye surgeon. It is also through him that he is half Slovak. Knowing that, it is not surprising that five years ago, on top of acting as a director of Eye Centre Prague for ten years, he also accepted the challenge of applying the know-how of the leading Czech private clinic in Slovakia, that is in Trenčín Eye Centre Sokolík, when the ownership structures of the two clinics met. This interview is taking place at the time of “round” anniversaries being celebrated in both renowned institutions, twenty years in Prague and ten in Trenčín. Long enough to test the foundations they are built on – and both institutions have passed the test of time victoriously. Normally, we would have therefore begun by asking their mutual director about the greatest accomplishments experienced throughout these years. However, in light of today’s difficult pandemic times, we began our talk with related issues and obstacles.

Mr. Janek, what decision did you find the hardest to make in the last year?

In my case, the most difficult by far was to decide, at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic in the spring of the last year, to what extent or whether at all we keep the operations of both clinics. I am glad that also after discussing the matter with colleagues we did not close even for one moment and kept providing health care in full. However, it was not easy at all.

What particularly did you have to deal with?

In the first phase, much more than by the virus itself we were influenced by our patients’ behaviour as due to their fear of getting infected they stopped obtaining health care. It means, they were cancelling preventive check-ups and other planned medical examinations and intraocular interventions. That was distressing for us, mainly because this absurd fear was brought up by unbelievable media brainwashing. Fortunately, the situation stabilised in part during summer and people stopped worrying so much.

Fear is the biggest enemy

They are not afraid today?

Today, many people are rather disgusted by oftentimes illogical restrictions which discourage them from visiting a health facility. Fortunately, most of them realised that life, and particularly health care, simply cannot be stopped.

In my opinion, it is the very fear what will cause much greater damage on human lives than the coronavirus itself. And unfortunately, it is constantly being invoked by the information pouring in on us from the mainstream media or online space. My guide to surviving this in one piece is simple: exercise your common sense, do not neglect prevention, and do not delay planned treatment. Let’s protect the groups at risk, respect each other, be nice to each other and live our lives as normally as we can. And above all, let’s make diligent effort to keep economy running as much as possible. Otherwise, I am sure that the economic consequences will be dreadful, and it will take us a long time to recover.

Talking about the troubles, what other obstacles did you have to overcome while managing both clinics?

There are many things I could name. However, from a longer-term perspective I should mention staff retention. In 2012, Eye Centre Prague showed 70% employee turnover, which is quite unthinkable for me now and such “movement” represented a huge problem for our clinic regarding the effectiveness and quality of care provided. Currently, we have a stable team of medical doctors, receptionists, nurses as well as back-office workers that has not changed for a few years, and the turnover is around 5-7 %, with the majority being maternity leaves. It is wonderful to see and know that employees are satisfied with us and do not take their work only as work but as their mission and hobby. We can meet with colleagues not only during our working hours at the clinic, but we also appreciate just going out “for a beer” time to time. I believe this will become possible sometime soon again.    

The same way can be said about Eye Centre Sokolík. From five employees in 2016 when I joined the company, we have grown to twenty-five, now forming a stable team that I can rely on. This is also thanks to the firm foundations laid for this clinic by the unfortunately already deceased chief doctor MUDr. Ján Sokolík Sr. whose legacy continues in his son and present chief doctor of our Trenčín centre MUDr. Ján Sokolík Jr.

Moving up

What else are you proud of?

As a matter of fact, I am proud of everything we came through in the last years – from building a new clinic, through restructuring our staff to reorganising our health care provision. Eye Centre Prague has become a well-known eye clinic not only among Prague people, but our patients are coming from across the nation, especially from the Central Bohemian, Ústí, and Pilsner Regions. We have already performed more than 100,000 intraocular surgeries. We have also moved Eye Centre Sokolík to new state-of-the-art premises and rebuilt it into the biggest non-state eye care provider in Trenčín Region. Yearly, we perform thousands of intraocular surgeries here and thanks to our “Czechoslovak” network, we can guarantee the use of the most modern and safe clinical procedures.   

What I am most proud of are all my colleagues because they are doing an amazing job as professionals and humans, and it is also them to whom my greatest thank you belongs.

Each clinic gets their fair share of my working week and I also find time for being in the middle of it, on sight at the reception, in medical offices, operating rooms… And seeing my colleagues treating every patient as the dearest family member is probably my biggest reward. We have a strong company culture and there is nobody among us who would not pull the same direction, which is quite scarce these days.

Dreams come true

In your last interview for TRADE NEWS in 2018, you mentioned a lot of plans. Have they come true?

Yes, they have. Two years ago, we built a specialized centre for diagnosis and treatment of retinal diseases. We are one of the few private eye centres that can provide patients with biological treatment of retina fully covered by public health insurance.  And, as we are known for following the latest trends, we are currently developing new eye implants. Finally, we are going to get our patients various preventive programs on early detection of eye diseases, fully covered by public health insurance for all. 

Personally, I have plenty of other dreams that are not limited solely to ophthalmology, but the structure of our health care system as a whole. I would much appreciate to see a more effective integration of health care, faster and “smart” digitization of health care, stratification of hospital network including human capacity sharing, comprehensive amendments in how health care is organized, wider use of telemedicine, introduction of price competition between health care insurance companies, responsibility of every patient in the system, maximizing transition of surgeries into one-day surgery scheme and finally I wish to remove the myth of health care being for free. I believe that these changes will be necessary for future sustainability of the system and to a certain extent they are already happening. 

And where is ophthalmology heading for?

Just like in every field, diagnostic tools will be improved, more advanced implants will be evolving all the time, biological treatment for retinal diseases has already become standard, gene therapy is coming, across all expertise AI will take a substantial place, and there is much more to come. We have things to look forward to! 

Text: Jana Jenšíková

Translated by M. Hošková a D. Libertin

Photo: Dara Rakovcik, archive of Eye Centre Prague and Eye Centre Sokolík

Celý článek si přečtěte v tištěné verzi TRADE NEWS 1 / 2021 na straně 30.

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