COTE D'IVOIRE: State health facilities halt all services in "indefinite" strike

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

In Côte d’Ivoire people are being turned away from public hospitals as all state doctors have gone on strike, shutting down even minimum services in health facilities across the country.

“We’ve been here for two days, but no one wants to take care of us,” said a teary-eyed Solange Atsé, accompanying her asthmatic sister to a main public hospital in the commercial capital, Abidjan.

The strike, which began on 5 September, is the second in two months as negotiations with the government over pay scale and other trade union grievances have failed.

In the earlier strike in August, hospitals provided some minimum services but this time round that is not the case. The medical trade union this time called for an “indefinite strike without minimum services”, according to the union’s secretary general, Amichia Magloire.

The Minister of Public Health and Hygiene, Remi Allah Kouadio, has appealed to the state doctors to retain minimum services for the population but they have refused.

This means that even people in urgent need are on their own. At a hospital in the Treichville neighbourhood of Abidjan, an ambulance carrying a patient was turned away on. “Not working here, go somewhere else,” a guard at the hospital entrance told the driver.

For people with means, “somewhere else” might be a private clinic. But for many that is not an option.

“We don’t have the means to go to a clinic,” Atsé told IRIN, calling the expenses her family would face there “impossible”.

Doctors throughout the country are reportedly following the strike order. A taxi driver in the northwest city of Odienne told IRIN that the handful of state doctors who had resumed their work in the former rebel territory have quit the public hospital, leaving patients behind.

Some nurses have stayed around health facilities, giving minimal care such as bandaging wounds, sources told IRIN. But the medical trade union has said if a solution is not found with the government by next week, nurses will all leave their posts as well.

Source: IRIN