Strikers Nearly Stop Chilean Hospitals.
Forces patients to find emergency care elsewhere
Dozens of people were turned away from emergency rooms Thursday,
November 14, 1996 as a walkout by paramedics, nurses' aides and
ambulance attendants paralyzed public hospitals in Santiago, Chile.
The strike by so-called auxiliary health care workers demanding higher
wages began two days earlier but emergency room care was not affected
until Thursday, when patients' relatives and Civil Defense volunteers
were forced to pitch in to handle stretchers and wheel chairs at many
"The situation is close to collapse," said Dr. Enrique Accorsi,
president of the National Medical Association.
Hundreds of patients were transferred to university and military
hospitals, and dozens who tried to seek emergency services were turned
At Santiago's Central Emergency Hospital, Luis Montesinos, an
84-year-old diabetic who arrived in a taxi with a bleeding leg, was
told to go elsewhere.
Allowing volunteers to help out in emergency rooms was "unethical
and dangerous, and not enough to keep the services running at even a
minimum efficiency," Accorsi said.
Chile's 168 public hospitals care for more than 4 million people. The
striking workers are represented by the 40,000-member Public Health
Health Minister Alex Figueroa accused strike leaders Thursday of
stepping up their demands and withdrew an earlier offer to open
negotiations mediated by legislators.
The health workers' union has demanded that the government allocate
$119 million to finance higher salaries and other benefits. The
government says their demands would cost twice that much and called
the strikers' attitude "nearly criminal."
The minimum salary of paramedics, nurses' aides, ambulance drivers and
other health care workers is currently $120 a month. They seek a
15-percent increase over the next three years.
And we complain about our salaries...