Panama Gets Tough with Doctors

Panama, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) President Martin Torrijos warned public health physicians, in their 11th day of a strike for a salary increase, that the government would begin today, Friday, to deduct time absent from their pay and would hire temporary doctors.

Nearly 5,000 members of the National Negotiating Medical Commission (COMENENAL) began the strike November 6 demanding a 60 percent increase.

The striking doctors have only been handling emergencies and have cancelled scheduled surgeries and appointments, declaring that they want to stop the privatization of the public health sector.

In negotiations that ended late Thursday night, the doctors agreed to reduce their demand to 45 percent if the government stops privatizing any kind of medical service.

COMENAL leader Julio Garcia asserted that the privatization would end paying doctors less and affect patients that could not pay a minimum or attend a private hospital.

A poll published today revealed that 72.3 of those consulted believe a 60 percent salary increase is unfair.