Nearly 10,000 doctors took part in a strike in Peru this week to demand more support from the government as they respond to one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, a union leader said,the latest in a series of protests by public health workers who have endured months of crises at the country’s underfunded hospitals.
The nationwide strike forced Peru’s second-biggest health care provider, the state-run EsSalud, to suspend consultations and scheduled surgeries on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Dr. Teodoro Quiñones, the secretary general of EsSalud’s doctors’ union.
Included in the doctors’ demands was the distribution of a $200 monthly cash bonus that the government promised front-line medical workers months ago. Dr. Quiñones said most doctors had yet to receive the bonus despite being forced to buy their own face masks while working at hospitals that lacked even the most basic medical supplies.
“Do you know the desperation of tending to patients in these conditions? Without oxygen? Without medicine? To see a patient on a ventilator wake up with a tube in their mouth and not have the medicine to sedate them?” Dr. Quiñones said in a telephone interview.
Despite an early and strict lockdown, Peru has suffered one of the highest per capita Covid-19 death tolls in the world, with about 100 confirmed deaths from the disease for every 100,000 people. The pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of a health care system that has had to turn away patients as demand for beds surged for months, before hospitalizations peaked in mid-August and deaths started to decline.
The strike was just one of several disputes over pay and working conditions between the government and public sector health workers. Another doctors’ group held a two-day strike a month ago, and Dr. Quiñones said different unions might team up to hold a bigger, indefinite strike if the government does not address their concerns.