The health workers began their hunger strike Tuesday in front of Peru’s Ministry of Labor in capital city Lima. About a dozen medics from the national social security union have been taking part in protests there as the health system struggles to cope with a second wave of Covid-19.
“We have begun a hunger strike,” said Teodoro Quinones, a doctor taking part in the protest, according to Reuters.
Quinones said the strike would last until Peru’s Labor Minister removes the head of the country’s Health Social Security, Fiorella Molinelli, who oversees government efforts to set up temporary health and isolation centers for Covid-19 patients.
As of Thursday, Molinelli, has not commented on the union’s demands.
The protesters have been sharply critical of the government’s approach to the pandemic, and are asking for increased investment in the health sector.
“Our ICUs are collapsing and we are not receiving any response and we are seeing the indifference of a government that assigns us the budget,” Peruvian nurse Ketty Solier told Reuters Tuesday.
“We urgently need to acquire this equipment to prevent more Peruvians from dying. The Peruvian state has a constitutional obligation to guarantee the accessibility of health services and right now they are denying access to hospitals because we no longer have the capacity to provide patients with what they need so much,” she added.
“People are infected, there are no ICU beds, soon there will be no more hospitalization. Again we are going to see people dying in the streets. About the vaccine, we have no hope for the vaccine, we do not know when it will arrive,” Ronald Castañeda, a relative of a Covid-19 patient, told Reuters.
ICU occupancy rates are at 90% in some parts of Peru, according to Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa Etienne, who described struggling health systems throughout Latin America at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
“We are starting on a second wave [of Covid-19 cases]. This wave is rising. I can tell you that we’ve made some calculations and we are more or less right were we were in mid-April, and the figures keep ascending,” Health Minister Pilar Mazzetti told local media Monday.
On Tuesday, Peru’s interim President Francisco Sagasti approved a decree to finance the set-up of more than 16 temporary isolation centers across the country and to hire additional staff to expand health services, according to a Tuesday press note from the Ministry of Health.
Sagasti became president in November 2020, becoming the third president to be sworn in in just over a week as the country struggled with political turmoil amid the pandemic.