40th Day of Public Health Sector Strikes in Bolivia

by BoliviaBella.com
(Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia)

Public health sector labor unions protest in Santa Cruz

Public health sector labor unions protest in Santa Cruz

Public health sector labor unions protest in Santa Cruz
Public health sector labor unions protest in Santa Cruz
Public health sector labor unions protest in Santa Cruz
Public health sector labor unions protest in Santa Cruz

11 May 2012. Santa Cruz. Doctors, nurses, university medical students and other public health sector union members have been on strike for 40 days throughout Bolivia, with no end in sight. On Wednesday, May 9th the Central Obrera Boliviana (Bolivia's national association of labor unions) announced a 72-hour nationwide strike in support of them and other sectors (teachers, miners, public transportation, and others) that are demanding the a higher minimum wage, and the annulment of Decree No. 1126, which increases the public sector workday from six hours to eight without additional pay. The COB announced today it will hold an "ampliado" (general union meeting) on Tuesday of next week to decide upon further actions to be taken, including the possibility of extending strikes and protests indefinitely.



Doctors and nurses in Santa Cruz held a massive protest at 11:00 a.m. this morning, joined by thousands of medical students. They converged upon the corners of Av. San Cristobal (known as the city's 2nd ring) and Av. Monseñor Rivero, then headed south to the downtown area. Protesters were generally amicable, although cars were not allowed to cross through their ranks. A brief heated argument took place with one driver who attempted to cross between the marchers, but he was eventually allowed to proceed.

Santa Cruz is one of the only major cities where incidents of violence have not occured. Protesters seem to be looking for alternative, and more creative ways to make their voices heard. Yesterday, doctors at one public hospital provided FREE medical care to all patients (choosing to cause loss of income to the state as their way to protest). News stations reported that health sector workers were paid today, indicating the government has docked their pay for missing work.

The protesters also handed out flyers explaining their reasons for protesting (pictured above in Spanish), which read:

I will begin working 8 hours a day, if you:

Stop calling me at 3 in the morning to take care of your child for as long as necessary, or if you stop summoning me on Sundays and holidays because a member of your family had an accident, or is near death.

If your obligations end when you cross through the doorway of your job and into the street, why should mine by 24-hours a day? Stop suggesting that I am a doctor only 6 hours a day.

If you make a mistake... you are admonished:

If your health no longer depends on me, but on God… you fight to send me to jail.

Bolivia is the only country that wants to go against the WORLDWIDE WORK SCHEDULE for its medical professionals, and this has nothing to do with privileges as we have heard some maliciously say. I work with your stress, with your life, with your dreams, your hopes, and I make your anguish, your worries and your desperation mine. So start paying me and acknowledging me as other countries do (and you needn’t look far, our neighboring countries do so).

I took an oath with is judged without considering:

That I did not make this oath to you... I made it to myself, with my conscience, with the reasoning that doing so doesn’t make me a demigod who can live without pay, or maintain a family in misery, or that a rope would be put around my neck when the solution (if there is one) is no longer in my hands.

That my vocation is to do everything possible to help you... but again, my vocation doesn’t make me infallible... I am as human as you. Do you remember how many mistakes you made today?

Do you know what the Hippocratic Oath says?

After 6 hours of listening to your problems, your fears, your secrets, your desperation, do you think I’m not affected by them? And even so, you dare to underestimate my work?

Did you know that when we take shifts, we work 48 or 72 hours, sometimes without sleeping... have you ever asked yourself, or do you even care to know, if the state pays us for this? If it pays us double shifts, night shifts, Sundays and holidays... or Sunday nights? It’s easy to form an opinion if you don’t know what the reality is.

Ask yourself: if I were the doctor, would I accept a life of sacrifice in exchange for more and more demands from me without any additional pay? Would I abandon my family when an unknown person or his/her family needs me to assist them?

This is the true reason why doctors should make this known, against the ignornace and maliciousness of opportunists. Please share these reflections if you can understand my reasons, over and above the opnions of those who have no idea what it means to be a doctor.


Protests in every major city in Bolivia continued on this, the 3rd day of the announced 72-hour union strike, including road blocks, marches and intermittent clashes with police in some areas, especially La Paz.

Labor unions have announced they will not give up in their efforts until the government annuls Decree 1126 and demonstrates it is prepared to negotiate with them.


Source: BoliviaBella.com on location. Date: 11 May 2012.

Comments for 40th Day of Public Health Sector Strikes in Bolivia

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May 14, 2012
no bias intended
by: BoliviaBella.com

While I appreciate your opinion I can assure you there is no political motivation of any sort on my part. I stepped out, took some photos, was handed a flyer, translated it, published. It all took place within a space of about 20 minutes, so taking the time to discuss social consequences wasn't my priority at the time. Informing tourists and travelers of events that could potentially affect their trip, is my only motivation in writing these articles. That, and a lot of people have been asking me WHY the doctors are protesting. I wasn't actually very clear on why. So when a nurse handed me the flyer, I simply thought translating it and including it might serve to help explain the "why" of the protests much better than a person like myself could. Who better to answer "why" than the protesters themselves.

Having said that, as to why I don't discuss the social issues or consequences, I could have taken the time to do so, but then I would have been writing an editorial, not a simple newsy-ish report on what I saw. I do have opinions about that, and a lot of other things, but I didn't believe this article was the proper place to express them. A discussion of social consequences would have required me to reveal them and isn't inserting my opinions precisely what you are asking me to avoid?

I still haven't told you what my opinion of these protests is. And in the interest of remaining impartial, I am trying very, very hard not to :)

May 14, 2012
my views on this article
by: Anonymous

It looks like Bella Bolivia is giving politically motivated opinion. I do not see this is an unbiased news. Strikes, riots have been a traditional form of agitation in Bolivia for ages irrespective to the government who rules the country. However, doctors, teachers do it very much politically. Probably Bolivia is the only country in South America where teachers never finished their complete yearly curriculum (in public schools where majority Bolivian students go to get kind of "free education") and patients (poor people only) simply suffer in many occasions due to hospital strikes. So why are you not pointing out the social issues and the consequences of strikes? Your journalism should serve the whole society not just one sided biased opinion keeping this mind that in democracy everyone has rights. This is my personal view after reading this article.

May 13, 2012
not independent?
by: BoliviaBella.com

@Philipp, I certainly hope you aren't implying that BoliviaBella is one of the not-independent news outlets to which you refer. As foreigners we can only report what we see. We cannot take one side or another, in a news sense, politically, or otherwise.

I have my own personal opinions of the protests, but I'll not mention here what they are, in the interest of continuing to remain impartial.

;) Bella

@Anonymous: I also do not quite understand your comment on America or how this situation compares?

May 13, 2012
inform yourselves better
by: Philipp

Just like the transportistas, the doctors enjoy privileges that have been given to them decades ago. doctors and mircreros earn a fairly good salary in comparison with the rest of the country and on average deliver a terrible service. of course there are exceptions , but thats the general picture and not to be mixed or confused with the strife of a plant worker that doesnt earn enough to sustain his family. please inform yourselves well and dontlet your opinion be influenced by any not-independent media outlet.

May 12, 2012
and this has what to do with america
by: Anonymous

i fail to see what, in even the slightest way, this has to do with america...

May 12, 2012
The doctors are right
by: Anonymous

I hope they don't end up turning Bolivia into a little America! Keep things the way they are! Bolivia is a wonderful country, please don't start Americanizing your country!

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