Peru’s state-employed doctors go back to work on 15-day truce

Peru’s state-employed doctors nationwide suspended their strike and began treating patients Friday, granting new Health minister Oscar Ugarte a two-week truce to find solutions to demands made by the Peruvian Medical Federation, or FMP.

“What is important is the recognition of the fairness of these demands,” said FMP President Dr. Julio Vargas, “and, secondly, the FMP and (Ugarte’s) desire and disposition to review the (health) sector’s budget.”

“Some 56 million (soles, or approximately $18.7 million) have to be found in the Health Ministry’s budget,” said Vargas. “If this amount can’t be found, the Finance Ministry could provide a supplementary credit to meet the sector’s demands and sustain them in the future.”

The Finance Ministry has been making budget cuts across the board since the new Finance minister, Luis Valdivieso, joined the Cabinet in July.

The medical strike began September 15, after eight months of unsuccessful negotiations and the failure by the former Health minister, Hernán Garrido-Lecca, to implement a 15-point agreement signed in January.

The strike left only a skeleton staff to operate 140 state hospitals, 2,000 clinics and 5,000 rural clinics within the Ministry of Health system. The result was thousands of patients unattended and hundreds of surgeries postponed.

“We have agreed to make up for the work hours lost during the month of September in order to benefit the population,” said Vargas.

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, pay rise for physicians in the Ministry of Health System equal to that in the state health insurance fund system, Essalud, and a permanent increase in the health sector’s budget.

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