News 05 Dec 12

Macedonia's Striking Medics Vow to Resist Threats

Macedonian doctors staging a two-week-long strike say they will take more radical steps if Health Minister Nikola Todorov acts on threats to punish them.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The Independent Trade Union of Medical Clinics, which is heading the strike by medics, on Tuesday said they will erect tents in front of the Health Ministry, demanding Todorov’s resignation, if he acts on threats to punish the strikers.

The warning came after the ministry on Monday boosted inspections of clinics and urged unsatisfied patients to report medics who had failed to treat them.

“The inspections... are clearly intended to scare doctors from supporting the strike,” the head of the trade union, Dajan Stavric, said on Tuesday.

The striking doctors are angry about the Health Ministry’s new method of calculating their wages, which is based on the number of patients they have treated over the previous month. In addition, they want an immediate increase in basic wages.

Before sending in inspectors, Health Minister Todorov downplayed the importance of the strike, arguing that it was “politically motivated”, by the opposition, and lacked support.

“Patients are being left untreated…  so I will be forced to take measures very soon,” Todorov said at the weekend.

Medics said they remained defiant.

“As you can see, we are gathered here in our hundreds so that the minister can see us. It should also be clear that this strike is not political,” Stavric told a rally before the Health Ministry this weekend.

After being refused a meeting with the minister, the doctors now seek talks with the Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski. So far, he has remained silent about the strike.

Todorov, however, continues to insist that the strike is illegal and to deem its organizers irrelevant.

He has meanwhile launched talks with another, recently formed, parallel union, called “Mother Theresa”, which does not support the strike.

The parallel union emerged out of the blue in September, just as the strikers announced their intention to strike.

During the current strike only emergency cases are being treated in most public health facilities.

Support for the strikers has come from the Union of Macedonian Journalists and Media Workers. The union has used a statement to express solidarity for the medics, encouraging them to resist pressure from the government.

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