Through hunger strikes, mobilizations, and mass resignations, doctors in Bolivia protest against an article of the new Penal Code, which punishes with fines and jail time malpractice of health specialists.
While the rallies started back in November, it wasn’t only until December 18th that the healthcare professionals went on a hunger strike and blocked the entrance to public hospitals and state universities in cities like La Paz, El Alto, Sucre, and Santa Cruz.
In addition to the strike, about 58 managers of public health centers quit in rejection of the new article since it criminalizes the profession, according to those protesting.
"In La Paz, we are determined to resign to our intermediate positions, hospital directors, heads of services, network managers, and all people who have a hierarchical position", highlighted the medical leader Orlando Moreira.
What is the new law about?
The policy allows citizens to find a way to channel their claims when they do not feel satisfied or have been harmed by a medical procedure. It also penalizes personnel who deny care to a patient in a state of emergency. These would be punished with 2 to 6 years in prison, and punishes medical negligence with the removal of their professional license or fines.
Due to this, the medical community responded with strikes and rejection to the measure; they request the Government to revoke the policy. However, Alfredo Rada, vice minister of Coordination of Social Movements, called the actions of the doctors "irresponsible" and stressed that the commotion is due to a conflict marked by internal disputes that are fought over by the presidency of the Medical Association of Bolivia.
"It is regrettable, however, that is the population that has to suffer the damages of a measure that has been declared by the leadership of Bolivian Medical Association apparently in a conflict that is also marked by these internal disputes”, Rada stated.
60 Cuban doctors arrive to bring help
According to Bolivian government statements, this medical crisis caused by strikes has left four dead due to the lack of medical assistance and more than 8,000 surgeries and 600,000 consultations have been postponed.
As a measure to the manifestations and hunger strikes, 60 Cuban doctors arrived in Bolivia to supply the absence of doctors and serve users in mobile clinics enabled by the Government.
While the crisis is worsening, Bolivia announced that doctors who are on strike for more than six days could be let go or have to pay fines for breaching their duties.
Latin American Post | Luis Liborio
Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto