Chile: unions repudiate the dismissal of more than eight thousand health workers

The Medical College of Chile together with some thirty related unions repudiated the dismissal of more than eight thousand health workers in the middle of the pandemic, and after the end of the State of Exception on September 30. The new measures of the so-called Step by Step plan proposed by the government of Sebastián Piñera led to a decrease in public health budget that it has a direct impact on the traceability, testing and isolation strategy in primary care. This scenario did not allow the renewal of contracts by the municipalities and reduced the number of beds to care for critical patients. The Undersecretary of Assistance Networks, Alberto Dougnac, responded to the accusations of the unions by ensuring that the health system no longer requires so many workers due to the decrease in cases of covid-19 in the country.

“Budget tightness”

From the health guilds they pointed out that it is a true “dismantling by the Chilean government of the progress made in public health during the pandemic”. In a statement published days ago, a group of workers’ organizations in the sector stated that “The reports from the different territories of the country account for the closure of beds, the dismissal of thousands of civil servants, together with the tight budgets that limit the normal operation of hospitals.“.

The president of the Medical College of Chile, Izkia Siches, said Tuesday that the measure was adopted by the Ministry of Health due to a decrease in the public health budget, a fact that he described as “unintelligible.” The union leader highlighted in this regard that “The pandemic is not over and we must deal with an avalanche of displaced care”.

During an interview for Radio ADN, Siches demanded that the Health Ministry “not lose the sanitary logic” and “not dismantle the strengthening of public health.” “Today the cases are on the rise and to this the greater individual freedoms are added, that is why more than ever we need to keep control of outbreaks strengthened from the territories“said the head of the Medical College.

Fewer beds available

For his part, the national secretary of the Medical College, Jose Miguel Bernucci, stressed that one of the high points of the government’s handling of the pandemic was the “broadening of the entire critical patient system.” Bernucci assured that Chile started this pandemic with 900 critical beds, which made it one of the countries with the fewest beds available per number of inhabitants.

“This growth was tremendously positive and all the new staff did well. It is bad news based on this human resource that has stopped working. The four thousand beds that we had were made with the reinforcement of professionals who doubled shifts or tripled shifts. Now we are told that we will have 1100 beds, “Bernucci said in a dialogue with Radio Futuro.

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“These budget cuts will translate into less attention. This is clearly an economic problem of resources. The extra economic incentives that were used in community service are cut,” said the national secretary of the Medical College, who regretted: “When we do not have space, these patients must be removed from the public network to receive benefits in the private network. We will return to the starting point after all that we have advanced. “For many Chilean specialists, the reduction in the number of beds is a problem since setting up these quotas is not easy, especially if one takes into account the need for qualified personnel for the intensive care rooms.

The president of the National Federation of Health Workers (Fenats), Patricia Valderas placeholder image, added to the generalized repudiation and also referred to the situation of “work burden” health workers go through. “The increase in work, the workload is much greater. We have workers with sequelae from the same covid that it is impossible for them to recover in one or two months and a significant number of workers with medical leave for mental health,” said Valderas, who added: “The workers are still tired, they are still stressed and taking vacations is still delayed because there is no room for that.”

The government’s position

From the Piñera government, the one who came out to show his face was Alberto Dougnac, Undersecretary of Assistance Networks. To respond to criticism from the guilds, Dougnac explained that it is about a strategy planned since the end of the State of Exception decree, which expired on September 30 and was not renewed due to the decrease in cases and hospitalized for coronavirus.

“All the strategies that we have designed to reinforce the hospital structure and also primary care have to be adjusted to the needs that the country has had and the evolution of the pandemic,” said Dougnac during the official balance. The official explained that “In today’s conditions, workers are not necessarily useful and we must adapt”, in reference to the current state of the pandemic in Chile.

Anyway Dougnac assured that “If the situation becomes complicated again, we will go back and take up the initiatives that are necessary”. According to data from the Ministry of Health, Chile has so far reported 1,657,749 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 37,506 total deaths from the virus since the health crisis began in March last year.


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