Burundi: Government, health officials seek to resolve strike
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||2 December 2008|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Burundi: Government, health officials seek to resolve strike, 2 December 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4938f31ec.html [accessed 26 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
BUJUMBURA, 2 December 2008 (IRIN) - The government and senior health officials have started discussions to end a strike by staff that has crippled health services across the country, sources said.
Emmanuel Gikoro, the Health Minister, met provincial health directors, hospital managers and heads of health districts over the weekend, but said the government would not be able to increase salaries.
"Payment of the claimed salary increase will [only] be possible after cancellation of Burundi's debts by donors in 2009," the minister said.
Donatien Bwabo, adviser in the finance ministry, urged the striking nurses and physicians to resume work. "Work stoppage will cause the deaths of many people," he said.
The senior health officials who met the minister decried the impact of the week-long strike. "The situation is serious at Prince Louis Rwagasore; patients are not well-treated," hospital director Tharcisse Nzeyimana said.
At Prince Louis Rwagasore and Prince Regent Charles hospitals in the capital, Bujumbura, striking workers had prevented patients from entering the hospital, he added.
At the Roi Khaled university hospital, also in Bujumbura, reports had emerged of selective treatment of patients, while physicians at the rural Karuzi hospital had found it hard to work because there were no assistants to help them.
In north-eastern Ruyigi and other provinces, only private health facilities were operating normally. But patients such as Kayoka Spéciose, mother of a one-month-old baby, said they could not afford treatment at the private facilities.
In north-western Cibitoke province, even suspected cholera cases had not been treated, health directors told the minister.
However, Canesius Mbonyingingo, leader of the physicians' union, insisted that minimum services were being offered. "Those who say we do not do the minimum want to see things with a hidden agenda," he said.
The government has set up a commission to examine the budgetary impact of the health workers' demands. "The commission's assignment may take two days instead of three if representatives of the health staff fully cooperate," its chairman Ignace Sindayigaya said on 2 December.
The nurses and physicians, covered by three unions, began their strike on 24 November to protest against the non-implementation of agreements with the government, including salary increases and improved working conditions.
"The government continues to remain silent about our claims instead of earnestly looking at ways of settling them," said a communiqué released after a 27 November meeting of the three unions - Syndicat des Médecins du Burundi, Syndicat des Médecins Généralistes du Burundi and Syndicat National du Personnel Paramedical.