More than 42,900 medical appointments have been canceled or postponed this week as thousands of public-hospital workers continue to strike in Costa Rica.
Health unions say they’re protesting tax-adjustment policies enacted as part of Costa Rica’s recent fiscal reform. These include tax increases and a reduction in annuities.
On Thursday, thousands demonstrated peacefully with a march from La Merced to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (Caja) building in San José.
Union representatives have said strikes will continue through Saturday morning, though Caja officials remained optimistic that a Thursday-afternoon meeting would result in an end to the protests.
According to Caja manager Roberto Cervantes, the 42,900 missed appointments comprise 38% of those scheduled through Thursday morning. Pharmacies and EBAIS, public community health clinic managed by the Caja, are impacted as well.
While emergency rooms at public hospitals have remained open, some are operating with a reduced capacity, Cervantes said.
“With a strike, no one wins, and it’s the patients who are suffering,” Mario Ruiz Cubillo, medical manager of the Caja, said at a Thursday press conference. “This strike has a cost that will be reflected monetarily and in public health.”
The Caja said it is relying on volunteers at several public hospitals to maintain other essential services.
Cervantes and other Caja officials have asked patients to arrive for scheduled appointments unless instructed otherwise.