San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Anesthesiologists one-day strike paralyzes several Costa Rica hospitals

Surgeries throughout the Central Valley had to be postponed Monday after 63 anesthesiologists in at least 10 hospitals went on strike.

The one-day strike resulted in disruptions in operations at hospitals including San Juan de Díos, México y Escalante Pradilla, according a statement by Zenith Rojas, the medical director of the Social Security System (Caja). Surgeries scheduled at the Geriatric Center and National Rehabilitation Center were not affected.

According to Rojas, the strike came as a surprise to Caja management since they had been working with the anesthesiologists to improve their workplace conditions for the past several months.

But Esteban Salas, vice president of the Association of Anesthesiologists, indicated otherwise. “On Sept. 29, we sent a letter to Executive President Ileana Balmaceda to please pay attention to us, and we never had a response,” Salas told La Nación on Monday.

Guillermo Abarca, Caja director of labor welfare, explained on the Caja website that managers have proposed to the anesthesiologists a leave of absence with pay, in addition to their allotted vacation time, to give them time off to relax since their work days are exhausting.

But anesthesiologists are asking for a 5 percent increase in wages and additional vacation time.

Caja managers claim that money will not improve anesthesiologists working conditions.

“By proposing sick leave and a joint process of ‘detoxification,’ it guarantees an improvement in health professionals, which ultimately benefits the patient,” said Caja Administrative Manager Gustavo Picado on Caja’s website.

Although nothing has been resolved between the two sides, the anesthesiologists returned to work Tuesday.

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