Dominican Republic: police attack medical workers

Six striking doctors were lightly injured on April 15 when Dominican police suppressed a peaceful march by doctors and nurses near the Darío Contreras hospital in eastern Santo Domingo. Police agents hurled tear-gas grenades at the protesters and attacked them with nightsticks. Dominican Medical Guild (CMD) president Waldo Ariel Suero said the agents also used pistols. The injuries weren’t serious, he added, but “the consequences could have been greater.” The commander of the police operation, Ventura Hilario, said he tried to stop the march because the medical workers didn’t have a permit and because they were blocking traffic.

Doctors and nurses had called a four-day strike starting on April 15, halting consultations and surgery at the country’s 126 hospitals. The doctors’ demands included a pay raise from the current rate of $500-$1,000 a month to about $1,700 a month; the creation of positions for interns; and improvements in the pension system for medical workers. This was the 16th strike by the medical workers in a year and a half; there are about 16,300 doctors in the CMD.

On April 15 Health Minister Bautista Rojas Gómez denied that the strike was effective, but the newspaper Listin Diario reported widespread complaints from patients on April 17. Rafaela Figueroa, president of the National Union of Nursing Services, warned that the government’s efforts to suppress the strike would just radicalize the strikers. CMD president Suero said that on Apr. 20 the medical workers would announce plans for more actions. (Univision, April 15 from AP; LD, April 18)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 19

See our last post on the Dominican Republic.