PANAMA CITY – Medical specialists at Santo Tomas Hospital, Panama’s main public health facility, on Monday went on strike to demand up to four months of back overtime pay, forcing the Panama City facility to suspend elective surgery and some consultations.
The emergency room and intensive care department continue operating normally, medical spokesmen told local media, who were live at the hospital reporting on the matter.
The head of the Association of Medical Specialists of Santo Tomas Hospital, Jaime Jiron, said on Monday that the strike is “fair” because the doctors should “be fighting” on an ongoing basis to obtain pay for extra hours worked.
The striking medical personnel are demanding that back overtime pay earned between November 2016 and February 2017 be paid, the vice president of the medical specialists association, Juan Carmelo Wong, said.
Wong told local Telemetro television that up to two months of overtime pay had accumulated, but not a full four months.
He added that the strike was also launched because equal pay had not been received by a group of doctors for their work between 2004-2007, although he provided no further details on that issue.
Wong said that Health Ministry officials “say that they have paid about 80 percent” of the outstanding debt over the past week, but he added that he could not confirm that.
He also said that a meeting is scheduled on Monday with the hospital’s medical officials and the strikers hope to “come to some accord” there.
“I have faith that this can be resolved and this pressure tactic will not need to be used for long,” he went on to say.
Health Minister Miguel Mayo, meanwhile, on Monday called on the strikers to end their work stoppage because the government had demonstrated “good will” in resolving the situation “100 percent” as quickly as possible.
He added that “the vast majority” of the outstanding debt had already been paid, although he provided no figures.
Mayo said that the delay in paying the overtime was due to several factors, including the launching last December of a new computer system that had created “a bit of trauma,” but that once it is fully operational will enable authorities to rapidly pay all salaries and other debts.