Costa Rica's Doctor's Strike Is Over


Following three day's of negotiations Costa Rica's striking doctors and the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (CCSS) came to an agreement in December, ending the 14 day strike by anesthesiologists and joined by fellow doctors in a general strike against state hospitals and clinics.
Authorities of the Caja and the Unión Médica Nacional (doctor's union) announced that they had worked out all their differences and that doctors would be resuming services. Almost 3.000 surgeries were put on hold with the strike by anesthesiologists and more than 20.000 appointments suspended with the joining of the strike by all doctors.

At the heart of the issue was the question of additional holidays and an increase in risk pay demanded by the anesthesiologists. When the parties began negotiation, the doctor's demand included an improvement in the deplorable condition of the state hospital's operating rooms.
The agreement will allow doctors more vacation days, in addition to the 30 days they already have by law, to detox from their specialty work. The anesthesiologists had demanded an additional 15 days, the actual number of vacation days negotiated was not released yet.

The Caja, as part of the agreement, committed itself to improving the condition of the operating rooms and agreed to reinstate - and without reprisals- the two doctors fired on the day after the strike was declared illegal. The Caja, the day after the strike was declared illegal, began the process of making good on its threat to fire striking doctors, which backlashed as the rest of the state doctors decided on a general walkout.

Former ministra de Salud and a medical doctor herself, Maria Luisa Avila, criticized the Caja and the government's action against the doctors, saying that it wasn't the best moment or direction for the Caja. Avila was appointed Health minister by Oscar Arias in 2006 and continued in the post in the Chinchilla administration, quitting recently when the Caja's serious financial problems came to light and that felt that as Health minister she did not have the power to correct the problems, after presidenta Chinchilla and her cabinet refused her the power to take strong and decisive action against and overburdened and overly bureaucratic state social medical system.

The anesthesiologists agreed to work overtime and at no charge to clear the backlog of almost 3.000 surgeries postponed during the strike.
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