San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Agreement Reached to End Medical Residents’ Strike

A 13-day standoff between resident doctors and the Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) came to an end on Saturday, June 26 when both parties signed an agreement regarding continuing education for physicians.

The strike arose from a disagreement over the terms of service to the Caja – which oversees national public health and medical services – by doctors completing training as specialists at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Under the previous system, doctors were required to fulfill a certain number of years of paid service in a post determined by the Caja. If a resident doctor opted out of the position – for example, if they wanted a post that didn’t take them out of the city – they were fined ¢32 million (about $62,000).

Resident doctors protested the fine, believing they shouldn’t have to pay to work in a post of their choosing, especially after financing their education.

“No worker in this country takes on a debt to work,” said Ana Belén, a resident who spoke to The Tico Times Thursday. “And that is what is happening with us here. We are incurring a debt with the Caja.”

Nevertheless, the Caja has argued that the UCR tuition of about ¢500,000 ($965) per student per semester only covers a fraction of the cost of medical training, and that a large part of the difference is paid by the Caja.

The agreement reached Saturday requires each medical intern to work for one year based on each year of study.

Resident doctors who choose to work at a post other than that assigned by the Caja, will take an 8 percent pay cut.

–Chrissie Long

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