News: Social Programs
Venezuelan Doctors to Receive 60% Pay Raise and More Investment in Hospitals
Caracas, October 9, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced a 60% salary increase for doctors in Venezuela's public health sector yesterday. He made the announcement during a ceremony commemorating forty years since the assassination of Argentine doctor and hero of the Cuban revolution, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara.
"The increase of 60% is just and necessary...this is justice for those that work for the life and health of the Venezuelan people," Chavez declared. The pay increase would take effect on November 1 and will include increased Christmas bonuses he assured.
Chavez's announcement comes two weeks after a dispute erupted in six of Venezuela's public hospitals, led by the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV) demanding salary increases and improved working conditions. However, community activists at the time argued the campaign was politically motivated and initiated by opposition sectors to create instability throughout the country the lead up to the referendum on the constitutional reform.
Doctors from Hospital Domingo Luciani de El Llanito also questioned the motives and participation of figures from the FMV, particularly president of the FMV, Douglas León Natera, who openly supported the coup government of Pedro Carmona Estanga in April 2002, which suspended discussion on doctor's union demands.
According to the FMV, the average salary of doctors is Bs. 800 000 (US$372) a month and that they are demanding Bs. 3 million (US$1,395) per month.
However, Chavez said he was "conscious" of the "backwardness" of the salaries of doctors in the country and said that the salary increase would be funded by the increased revenues from oil exports.
Natera said he welcomed the new plan but said the existing public health centres are in a "technical stoppage" because of lack of surgical equipment.
Minister of Health, Jesús Mantilla, denied that the hospitals are short of surgical equipment as suggested by the FMV and argued that the doctors that are denouncing this situation, "are the same doctors that sold out the country" who "destroyed" the installations and facilities that " the government is now recuperating."
Chávez also rejected opposition allegations about the "low quality" of Mission Barrio Adentro, a government funded program of universal healthcare for the poor staffed by mostly Cuban doctors. He added that Mission Barrio Adentro has carried out more than 200 million consultations since 2003, saved more than 57,000 lives, and carried out 28 million dental consultations, among others figures.
Chavez has criticised Venezuelan doctors, particularly from the private sector, who have refused to work in the barrios and provide free healthcare to the poor. He explained that Venezuela is aiming to train thousands to eventually replace the Cuban doctors. Of the students who are currently studying Integral Community Medicine in Venezuela, Chavez reported that 10,835 students were promoted to third year, 6,828 passed to second year, in addition a further 7,132 will begin their studies in 2008.
"It is time to think seriously of the new direction that medicine in Venezuela has to take. We are going to make a radical change and leave behind the inhuman, capitalist medicine, an instrument of exploitation of the people, medicine as a career to climb the social ladder...We will be like Che [Guevara]," he added.
Chavez also assured he is working towards the reconstruction of the national hospital infrastructure, which was decentralised in the 1990s. "Of the 220 hospitals that we have in Venezuela, we are working in 62 with an investment of Bs. 2.6 trillion [US$ 1.2 billion]."
On September 30 Chavez also announced the construction of an additional fifteen general hospitals in Venezuela over the next four years as part of a "plan of consolidation of the national public health system."
As part of the celebrations commemorating the life of Che Guevara, three new operating centers, a center for anaesthesiology, and a post-operation recuperation center were also inaugurated in Barquisimeto, capital of the state of Lara.
Governor of Lara, Luis Reyes Reyes, inaugurated the new medical installations and said the new installations increased the capacity of the hospital for surgical operations from 4,000 operations per year to 8,500.
He also said that the operating capacity of Venezuela's hospitals had increased under the Chavez government from 16,000 operations per year in 1988 to more than 65,000 per year in 2007.Chavez also asked Fidel Castro for authorization to broadcast his weekly television program Alo Presidente, next Sunday, from Santa Clara, Cuba, the site of a monument honoring Che Guevara.
Published on Oct 9th 2007 at 6.24pm
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