Doctors' strike

“Those Who Save Your Lives, Make a Miserable Salary,” Guatemalan Doctors plan Nationwide Strike, August 13th

Medicos Marchan en Guatemala

“Those who save your lives earn a miserable salary” Guatemalan medical professionals plan a nationwide strike on August 13th. Photo: Prensa Libre, Esbin Garcia

This coming August 13th, doctors across Guatemala plan to strike and suspend all consultations in health centers and hospitals.

No medical services will be offered that day as a nationwide protest for salary improvements that have been neglected by the government for years.

Health professionals who work for the Ministry of Health met with Guatemalan President, Jimmy Morales to learn of his response to the doctors’ demands for a decent salary, a petition they had filed with the president on July 25th. The meeting was unproductive.

The demands included a salary adjustment of 100%.

Instead, they were offered a yearly bonus of Q2 mil ($266.85).

Doctors who work 8 hours per day get a monthly salary of Q3700 ($493.67).

The march above shows the medical professionals on their way to the unfruitful meeting with Guatemalan president, Jimmy Morales on July 25th.

The doctors walked away from the meeting, “totally outraged.”  After presenting their claims for fair wages, job stability and paths to promotion, they were offered a salary adjustment of Q80 ($10.60) for doctors and professionals who work 4 hours per day, and Q160-Q190 ($21-$25.35) for those who work 8-hour shifts, said Luis Cuyun, Medical Deputy Director of the Hospital of Antigua in Guatemala.

“The issue is financial, and we have no resources,” responded the Ministry of Public Health.

woman in hospital in Guatemala

Health professionals in Guatemala plan to suspend services on August 13th. Photo: Prensa Libre, Hemeroteca.

The suspension of services will affect all Guatemalans. The health system is already problematic for the population. Hospitals are impacted by the number of people who demand care, while the medical infrastructure and supply are in need of an overhaul.

The problem of low salaries and job instability for medical professionals in Guatemala has not been addressed for years.

40% of the Guatemalan population uses public health services.

The medical professionals hope the suspension of services will yield results.

The basic monthly salary that doctors receive is budgeted for Q3700 ($493.67) based on eight hours a day. Medical professionals argue that this salary is not enough to cover their families’ needs and is not consistent with the responsibility they have to save lives. The doctors who work 4-hour shifts, receive around Q1600 ($213.48) per month.

The medical professionals include dentists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, anthropologists, and doctors. They seek fair wages, job stability and a path for professional advancement through administrative careers in health.

Every year, doctors have the uncertainty of whether or not they will be rehired.

Alma Jurado, a doctor with 26 years of experience working for the Ministry of Health explained why he has joined the protest: “Many professionals have not devoted so much time to prepare for their careers yet they make better salaries. In our industry, the responsibility that doctors and paramedics have is great. Our job is to save lives. Apart from the low salaries, the conditions in which we work are precarious. I love my profession. Many have asked me why I keep working here, and I tell them that it is because I love what I do, and I’m not motivated by a salary; but we need to make enough to survive, because we also have responsibilities, like everyone else. “

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