Peruvian doctors on strike: “They are killing us” | International

If there is one thing that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed in all its starkness, it is the dangerous fragility of health systems in many countries.

This is the case of Peru, one of the hardest hit in Latin America and the third in the region with the highest number of COVID-19 victims, only behind Brazil and Mexico. The lethality of the virus is particularly high there, with 843.5 deaths per million inhabitants.

One more piece of information: as of this Wednesday, 146 Peruvian doctors have lost their lives infected by the coronavirus. In this context, thousands of doctors carried out a national strike to ask for better salaries, denounce the lack of resources and ask for dialogue.

“We are on strike because they are killing us,” read a poster carried by the protesters. Others carried empty coffins.

More investment, better working conditions

In the midst of a pandemic, a doctors’ strike can arouse suspicions and animosity on the part of society. For this reason, Godofredo Talavera, president of the Medical Federation, the entity calling for the strike, assured Deutsche Welle that “the care of patients diagnosed or suspected of COVID-19, as well as emergencies and people hospitalized for other pathologies is guaranteed to one hundred percent ”, only the external consultations are not attended.

“This is a protest for the Government to increase the percentage of GDP that is invested in health“, adds Talavera, who also denounces the shortage of molecular laboratories to carry out coronavirus tests, the lack of protective equipment and the absence of resources to carry out traces among health professionals, and calls for the implementation of a promised wage and labor improvement to the doctors.

“The virus does not strike”

Godofredo Talavera speaks by phone with Deutsche Welle stationed in front of the Ministry of Health, in Lima, where he demands, along with other protesters, the Minister of Health, Pilar Mazzetti, to attend to his demands.

“I find it unfortunate that in a pandemic situation we are thinking about stoppages when our population needs us,” said Minister Mazzetti when she learned of the strike call.

“We all have absolutely understandable needs, but I think this is not the time for these types of measures. Our population needs the health system and the virus does not strike, or rise, or march ”, Mazzetti added.

“What we want is to have a dialogue and for the Government to comply with what has been promised, which is to increase health budgets so that we have protective equipment, oxygen, the appropriate masks … We do not have muscle relaxants throughout the country for patients who are with ventilation and we have to go grabbing them because they do not tolerate this type of procedure, ”Talavera replied to the minister.

“With those words, Mazzetti tries to turn society against doctors,” Godofredo Talavera concludes.

Responsibility and medical rights

Initially it was going to be a two-day strike, but at the last minute it was changed to a single “day of protest (…) as a way to attract attention,” said, for his part, the dean of the Peruvian Medical College, Miguel Palacios, to the RPP station.

For senior advisor Julia Tainijoki, an expert in medical ethics at the World Medical Association, when we are facing a strike by doctors, “it is a question of rights and responsibility.”

“During the pandemic we have seen cases of violence and discrimination against medical personnel,” Julia Tainijoki, from Switzerland, tells DW. “On the other hand, these workers have a responsibility to make sure that people receive medical treatment,” says Tainijoki, who refers us to the World Medical Associaton page.

In it, it is recalled that doctors can carry out protest actions to directly or indirectly improve working conditions that may affect the care of patients. Of course, it warns that whoever participates in a collective action is not exempt from their professional obligations towards their patients.

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