Peru Health Minister’s call for dialogue rejected by striking doctors after he calls government employees “idiots” and “poor devils”

Peru Health Minister Hernán Garrido Lecca’s call for dialogue with Peru’s Medical Federation, or FMP, whose indefinite strike has left thousands of patients unattended and hundreds of surgeries postponed, was rejected Friday after an audio recording was made public in which he labeled government employees “idiots” and “poor devils.”

“One cannot show any mercy,” said Garrido Lecca, “I don’t care if his wife or his mother has cancer, I’ll fire him anyway.”

Garrido Lecca later apologized, but said that his declarations were “taken out of context,” and have nothing to do with the strike.

“I’m sorry for what I said,” Garrido Lecca said, “but it’s all the same. We can’t tolerate this. The audio was recorded in the Cayetano Heredia University, during a workshop that has nothing to do with this situation. It has been taken out of context. It only reveals the (Health) Ministry’s indignation.”

“I’ll endure all the insults for the patients’ sake,” added Garrido Lecca. “It doesn’t matter what has happened, I’ll go the the FMP headquarters and sit down with them if they’ll allow me to.”

But, the FMP won’t be sitting down with Garrido anytime soon.

While doctors maintain they are willing to negotiate their demands with the government, the FMP and the country’s Medical College have conditioned the strike’s end to Garrido Lecca’s ouster or resignation.

We’re only willing to speak with either Peru’s Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo, or Finance Minister Luis Valdivieso, said FMP President Julio Vargas in comments to daily La República.

Hundreds of doctors gathered Friday to symbolically wash their lab coats in front of Lima’s Arzobispo Loayza Hospital.

“We are washing away the stains, the offenses, the insults,” said Vargas in comments to RPP. “Today, our lab coats are sparkling white as should be the dignity of Peruvian doctors.”

Eggs were thrown at Garrido Lecca on Thursday after he tried to transfer unattended patients from Arzobispo Loayza Hospital to another health care facility.

After eight months of unsuccessful negotiation and the non-implementation of a 15-point agreement signed by Peru’s Health Minister Hernán Garrido Lecca last January, nearly 20,000 launched an indefinite strike early Monday morning. Peru’s state-operated health insurance system, Essalud, joined in on the strike September 17.

On Monday, government news agency Andina reported that the majority of state-run hospitals are operating as usual and that only 30 percent of doctors did not show up for work Monday, Peru’s Medical Federation, or FMP, contended that 20,000 doctors — 100 percent outside of Peru’s capital, and 95 percent in Lima and Callao — adhered to the strike call.

The doctors’ main demands include the establishment of a unified health system to guarantee free and integral health care, bonuses for doctors working in Peru’s jungle, highlands and border regions, care for retired doctors, opening director positions for tender, and, among others, increasing the health sector’s budget.

So far, doctors were blamed for the deaths of Mario Chávez Chávez de La Rosa, who jumped from the sixth floor of Lima’s Rebagliati Hospital, and 26-year-old Audencio Navarro Vásquez, who was admitted to Las Mercedes Hospital in the province of Chiclayo. His family members claim that he died after seeking medical help, but was left unattended.

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