Peru’s state-employed doctors considering truce, back to work Friday

Doctors at state hospitals nationwide may be going back to work Friday, if the medical federation agrees in a meeting Thursday to grant a 15-day truce requested by new Minister of Health Oscar Ugarte.

The announcement was made late Tuesday by the president of the Peruvian Medical Federation, Julio Vargas, who said that “significant steps have been taken that would lead to a definitive solution to the medical problem.” Only formalities are left to iron out, according to Vargas, and the final agreements will be enacted into law.

The medical strike began September 15, and only a skeleton staff has continued to operate state hospitals and clinics within the Ministry of Health system. Protracted negotiations led by the previous minister of Health, Hernan Garrido-Lecca, only hardened the federation’s resolve. Demands include an increase in the budget for working conditions and an increase in wages to match those of state-employed doctors in the state health insurance system, Essalud.

Since he was sworn in as the new health minister last week, Ugarte, a surgeon and former vice-minister of health under ex-President Alejandro Toledo, has held meetings with the federation leaders together with the minister of Economy, Luis Valdivieso, and the president of the Cabinet, Yehude Simon. Ugarte said the current strike situation is unsustainable and that demands will be met within budget possibilities, but that doctors should be willing to return to work while the final details are hammered out.

Earlier in the day, prior to the medical federation’s announcement, Ugarte said during a visit to the northern city of Chiclayo that “I expected Dr. Vargas to be announcing their decision to suspend the strike. I don’t understand the reason to continue (the strike). We have had four official meetings but I see no changes,” Ugarte told reporters during a visit to Chiclayo Monday.

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