Most public hospitals in Costa Rica partially suspended work Monday due to a 48-hour strike against a tax reform approved last year, which workers say seeks to privatize the state health service.
Health unions said that 85% of public hospital workers joined the strike, although the government said the figures vary from 20% to 80% in different health centers.
The two sectors negotiated on Sunday to try to avoid the strike, but talks ended in the early hours of Monday without an agreement.
According to the unions, the tax-adjustment policies in place after the tax reform seek to leave the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), which administers public hospitals, without sufficient financing.
“We are present in the defense of the Caja and in the defense of the labor rights of our workers,” Rodrigo López, general secretary of the Association of Nursing Professionals, said at a press conference.
The tax reform, which includes tax increases, was approved in December to counteract a fiscal deficit that last year reached 6% of GDP.
The president of the CCSS, Ramón Macaya, rejected the supposed “privatization” of the institution and said that “the strike has terrible consequences for patients.”
He regretted that the stoppage would lengthen the waiting times for patients to receive specialized consultations or surgeries, which even in normal conditions can be extended for months or years.
On Monday morning, protesters marched along a stretch of Route 1, the main route of entry to the capital, which caused heavy traffic congestion.
However, according to Marvin Atencio, general secretary of the Union of Professionals in Medical Sciences, workers organized to ensure that emergency care is provided in all hospitals.