Sunday, January 18, 2009

Staff Strike at Two Hospitals in the Capital

Medical staff at the San Juan de Dios Hospital and the Roosevelt Hospitals refused to attend to outpatients in protest because 308 of the staff do not have a labor contract. Outpatients had been allowed to come in and be evaluated by a nurse specialists but they were not treated.

The seventh floor of the San Juan de Dio Hospital was filled with idle personnel, chatting with one another or reading. Resident doctors who normally handle outpatients were in a permanent meeting, a form of strike. Paramedics were called upon to set up new appointments for the outpatients. Meanwhile staff leaders along with a court assessor were analyzing a proposal made by the Ministry of Health. This proposal confirmed that 213 doctors have contracts and proposed to give contracts to the other 308 professional medical personnel within three months. A counterproposal was presented demanding contracts for all 521 residents and that they be paid no later than the 15th of February. After a 2-1/2 hour meeting the parties had still not reached an accord.

Another meeting of staff leaders was to occur today to decide whether to accent the Ministry's proposal or to continue the strike.

Impassable Bridges / Alta Verapaz

The Boca Nueva and Cahaboncito bridges in the Polochic area have been in poor shape for years and local citizens fear a disaster. The Boca Nueva bridge was built 125 years ago in the days of heavy ox-drawn wagons. Today 800 vehicles cross the bridge every day including heavy truck traffic. Truck drivers a fearful because the bridge is unstable and shaky. The wooden driving surface is worn out. If the Boca Nueva bridge collapses then Panzós would be isolated from from Cobán, similar to what happened three years ago when Panzós was isolated from El Estor due to a bridge collapse.

Local authorities and citizens have been raising the alarm for years with Covial, the division of the Ministry of Communications that is responsible for road and bridge maintenance. But despite the fact that these bridges are on national routes, not community roads, and are vital to transport in the region, nothing has been done. Local citizens have attempted some repairs by welding the supports and replacing the wooden surface as best they can but this is not nearly enough. The bridges need to be replaced. Truck drivers, local authorities and citizens are hoping that repair or replacement takes place this coming dry season and before a disastrous bridge collapse occurs.