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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Pandemic Doctors Protest Not Being Allowed To Work

Healthcare workers demand new contracts amid the COVID-19 crisis

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BOLIVIA. Sucre, Chuquisaca. The square of 25 de Mayo was brought to life by the voices of angry doctors fighting their government so they may continue the battle against COVID-19. A group of healthcare workers who were hired to work in hospitals as the front line soldiers of the pandemic is now concerned their contracts won´t be renewed by the state government. Their ability to continue working ended on 7 July.

Doctors are fighting for the right to risk their lives. Protest organizer and COVID-19 doctor Jose Carlos Alarcon explained the reason for the gathering outside the state capitol building in a Transcontinental Times interview. “We´ve been working with the sickest COVID patients. Many of them have chronic conditions”, he explained. “If the government doesn´t renew our contracts, we won´t be able to keep working.”

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He continued by saying all Bolivian hospitals are short on doctors to handle the increasing number of patients from the virus. The nation currently has over 62,000 reported cases and 1,637 of them are in the small state of Chuquisaca, where Alarcon and his fellow healthcare workers are demanding new work contracts.

Police directing traffic away from the protest crowd. Image credit: Autumn Spredemann

Spotlight on a government in crisis. Cries for more personal protection equipment (PPE) and other vital supplies have been heard from hospital staff throughout the country for months. The current administration under president Jeanine Añez has made embarrassing and costly errors in securing vital equipment, including ventilators, for Bolivian hospitals. The government has also failed to provide the necessary funding for healthcare facilities to run efficiently during the pandemic, leading to angry demands from medical staff for safer and better-equipped working conditions.

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“This is the worst possible time for essentially firing doctors”, Alarcon said with notable passion in his voice. “It´s not about us wanting to keep our jobs, which is also important, it´s about people needing us more than ever.”

As people assemble in the main city square with their homemade signs and face masks, it´s unknown if the local government of Chuquisaca will renew the contracts of these much-needed doctors. In the meantime, the pandemic continues to escalate in the struggling South American nation.

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Live footage of the protest can be viewed here.

Healthcare workers protesting and blocking traffic. Image credit: Autumn Spredemann
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