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Bolivian doctors go on strike over unpaid salaries and layoffs in pandemic

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Health workers in several regions of Bolivia have announced a two-hour strike planned for this Friday, June 18, in protest against layoffs they consider unjustified and at least three months’ back salary owed to staff attending Covid-19 cases.

“La Paz enters into a strike in consideration of the population for nothing more than two hours. We would have every right to make a stronger measure, but we are not doing it for the population,” said Fernando Romero, executive secretary of the Union of Public Health Medical Branches (Sirmes) of La Paz, on Thursday.

Bolivian doctors go on strike over unpaid salaries and layoffs in pandemic
Bolivian doctors go on strike over unpaid salaries and layoffs in the pandemic. (Photo internet reproduction)

The leader mentioned that the protest would be joined by workers from departments such as Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, and Oruro, and those from the city of El Alto to ensure that their claims are heard by the Minister of Health Jeyson Auza.

According to Romero, some 3,600 health workers were hired to treat cases during the second wave of contagions, which occurred between January and mid-March. The third wave began at the beginning of last month.

“They are not paying salaries for more than three months to thousands of colleagues (…) they are dismissing colleagues all over the country,” he said.

The representative of the medical unions of La Paz mentioned that the measure is assumed after having sent letters and held meetings with some deputy ministers and after considering that “they are all promises” and that there are no answers.

He also mentioned that during the pandemic, which started in the middle of last year, more than 1,200 health workers have died. Some of the dismissals are taking place even when some medical workers are recovering from the disease.

According to Romero, the protest planned for this Friday also calls for some discounts established by a law that is arbitrarily applied against the health sector.

This Thursday, employees of the state-owned Caja Nacional de Salud (CNS) also protested in the streets of La Paz, due to the lack of some medical supplies for the attention of its insured population.

Several of them marched to the Ministry of Health and set fire to a cardboard coffin and empty medicine boxes.

Bolivia is going through the third wave of Covid-19 infections, with reports of more than 3,000 cases and more than a hundred deaths. Since March last year, 15,826 deaths and 414,513 confirmed cases have been reported, of which 68,539 remain active.

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