Peru doctors launch 48-hour strike over pay and benefits

Less than six months after a massive doctors’ strike closed down hospitals and clinics across Peru, physicians launched a 48-hour strike Tuesday over pay and benefits they claim the government has promised, but failed to deliver.

Government news agency Andina reported that the majority of state-run hospitals are operating as usual and that only 2 percent of doctors did not show up for work Tuesday in Lima and Callao.

The strike is “a failure,” said Health Minister Óscar Ugarte in comments to Radio Radio Programas, or RPP. “We will deduct today’s pay from doctors who didn’t show up for work,” he added, “and from anyone who insists on not working tomorrow.”

According to Peru’s Medical Federation, or FMP, 70 percent of doctors in Lima and Callao and 95 percent of provincial doctors adhered to the strike call.

Though Peru’s Health Minister said he has honored the agreements made last year, the FMP contends that the government has failed to pay bonuses for doctors working in Peru’s jungle, highlands and border regions.

Last September, after eight months of unsuccessful negotiation and the non-implementation of a 15-point agreement signed by then Health Minister Hernán Garrido Lecca, nearly 20,000 doctors launched an indefinite strike, closing down hospitals and clinics, leaving thousands of patients unattended and hundreds of surgeries postponed.

In Peru, physicians’ salaries have decreased to a quarter of 1976 salary levels. In 2007, an average doctor’s salary in Lima was 1930 soles, or $670. Physicians often end up having two or more jobs to secure a decent income.

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