Sunday, May 3, 2009

Puerto Barrios Health Care May be Cut Back

Budget cuts may cause patient care centers in Los Amates, Morales, El Estor, and Livingston to reduce their hours and go back to category B health centers, decreasing patient care by 85 percent.

The Union of Health Workers staged a peaceful demonstration against the Directorate of the Department of Health protesting staff cuts, cuts in salaries to employees, reduced quality of service and the possible closure of the Customer Service Centers.

Sonia Negreros of that organization, said: "We are demonstrating peacefully to protect the rights of staff recruited for Customer Service Centers and against the budget cut, because it will lay off workers."

"The Ministry of Health intends to continue with the same hours of work, but in reality service will be reduced from 24 to 8 hours, and the number of patients served will decline by 85 percent," said Negreros.

"The Ministry of Health is pretending that 20 people can perform the same task as 39, which is impossible. This is a setback to the country's health, because after having risen to a higher level of health care, this cut would reduce the health center to category B and patients with more serious conditions will have to travel over a hundred kilometers to reach the hospital in Puerto Barrios, a journey that will result in death for some, depending on the situation," said Negreros.

The municipalities affected are Amates, Livingston, Morales and El Estor, because they are the most remote areas from Puerto Barrios. According to local citizens, one is not "allowed" to get sick in these places because there is no quality services.

The austerity measures by the Ministry of Health would result in dismissal of nurses, ambulance drivers, laundry and maintenance staff. For now, the staff will continue at their posts with reduced their salaries. If a maintenance worker earns a salary of Q2,000, it must be reduced to Q1,000.

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