David McFadden (AP) reports on a strike of doctors and interns in Haiti. He writes that since 1996, resident doctors have been paid $120 a month. The striking residents were initially demanding $500 a month, but now say they will accept $360. They recently rejected a government offer of roughly $200 monthly to return to work. See excerpts here:
Empty halls buzz with flies. Rats scamper through the wards at night. The emergency room is empty except for four shackled prisoners, watched over by relatives and missionaries rather than medical personnel. The Hospital of the State University of Haiti, the largest and most important public medical facility in this troubled country, is at the epicenter of the most punishing strike by Haitian medical workers in memory.
[. . .] Young doctors and interns walked off the job in March to protest chronic shortages of basic medical supplies, dismal pay and working conditions so unsafe that relatives of patients routinely threaten them, even storming into operating rooms with handguns. Nurses and support staff soon joined the walkout. Then waves of strikes spread to 12 other government-run hospitals across Haiti, crippling a severely under-resourced health system that struggles to cope during the best of times.
Health Ministry authorities say four state hospitals are closed and others hit by strikes are functioning at diminished capacity. They claim hospitals are gradually reopening. But Associated Press journalists visited one hospital identified as open in the capital’s Delmas district and found it barely scraping along. While a couple of specialists did scheduled consultations, the hospital was nearly empty and support staff sitting at the entrance turned away people seeking treatment. [. . .]
The government-run hospitals that cater to Haiti’s poorest citizens frequently lack basic supplies like surgical gloves, gauze, antiseptics and sometimes even water. Power outages force night-shift doctors to use light from their cellphones to finish operations.
The director general of the Health Ministry, Dr. Gabriel Thimothe, said public hospitals have been badly underfinanced for many years. The Haitian government devotes 4.7 percent of its budget to health care and has called for increasing the share to nearly 10 percent next year under a proposed budget. Thimothe said many of the striking resident doctors are “radicals” who trained in Cuba. “We’re open to negotiations. But we can’t give everything they demand due to the economic situation of the country,” he said.
Since 1996, resident doctors in Haiti have been paid $120 a month, a paltry salary that has been eroded further by the rising cost of living. [. . .]
[Photo above by Dieu Nalio Chery, Associated Press.]