Lima, September 10 (teleSUR-RHC)-- Public health care workers have launched a 24-hour strike on Wednesday to pressure Peru’s government into implementing agreements reached in 2014.
Last year, after workers held an 18-day strike, the government signed an agreement, which addressed various issues, such as giving the large number of temporary employees permanent status, increasing personnel, and raising salaries.
The striking workers include obstetricians, psychologists, social workers, chemists, biologists, and medical technicians. Most have had to study five to six years to be able to work in these positions and many have masters and doctorate degrees. Nevertheless, their average salary is around US$700 a month.
Secretary General of the National Federation of Obstetricians, Margarita Perez Silva says that only one of the 18 points listed in the 2014 agreement has been actioned. Perez said the government expanded bonus payments, previously only received by 20 percent of the workers, to 80 percent. However, she claims workers’ employment conditions are still unfair.
A number of the workers marched to the Ministry of Health demanding to be heard. However, the ministry will struggle to fulfill the demands since its budget has been reduced by the Ministry of Economics and the number of patients it is supposed to cover has greatly increased.
Alexander Sacco from the health care consumer advocates NGO, ForoSalud, explains that "for the year 2016, the government is proposing a budget for the health sector slightly lower than the 2015 one.” The overall budget presented for 2016 decreased from 4 billion to 3.9 billion.
However, Saco argues “the problem is that during 2015, millions of people were incorporated in the Integral Health Insurance of the Ministry of Health and that puts us at a severe contradiction affecting the inclusion specially of minors, school children, pregnant women, and dispersed populations."
Critics of the budget cuts predict that patients will lack access to medications, newly incorporated populations will be frustrated by the absence of services, and desperately needed infrastructure work will be suspended, leaving the public health care system in a critical state.