In Latvia hundreds of medics protest low wages in front of Saeima

On Thursday, November 7 hundreds of healthcare workers protested in front of Saeima. They're calling the protest “One day without medical practitioners”. This was one of two protests on that morning, as a separate regional reform picket was also taking place.

If the industry doesn't see any results, then the “Lower the flag, light a candle!” campaign will be held throughout Latvia from November 8-14. At the same time medics may also begin collecting signatures for the dissolution of Saeima.

When the protest began medics indicated that the fight is not about their wages, but the state of healthcare in Latvia, chanting “Health for Latvia!”. The protest involved medics not only from Riga, but also form several other Latvian cities and districts.

The situation began when even before the formation of the government, the 13th Saeima promised, and even defined in law, that the budget increase for salaries in the industry would be 120 million euros in 2020. However in place of that amount, the industry received an increase of 50 million euros, with 42 million going towards medic's salaries. Later, the prime minister expressed that 60 million more euros could be diverted towards salaries, but on Wednesday the government diverted only an additional 18 million euros – medics were not ready to compromise.

Saeima Speaker Ināra Mūrniece (National Alliance) attempted to address the medics, but the large crowd couldn't hear her. After her introductory words, saying that she understands the reasons for their protest, the crowd began shouting so loud that she was unable to further address them.

Afterwards a few medical union representatives were invited to a discussion in Saeima.

Several young people had come to the protest to announce the “funeral of the system”. They explained that the situation is so critical, that if this continues, the system will die. The empty promises will continue and young people will leave.

One protester, a residency doctor, said that two years ago he was seriously considering leaving the country, but after the law mandating a salary increase for medics he decided to stay. He, however, feels that the country “just deceives you”. 

Health Minister Ilze Viņķele (“Development/For!”) acknowledged on Wednesday that the least politicians could do, in regards to not fulfilling their promises, is apologise. She urges society and politicians to admit that with the current budget income we can only hold up a poor system, which is unacceptable and needs to be resolved.

Saeima Social and Employment Matters Committee Chair Andris Skride (“Development/For!”) confirmed to Latvian Radio on Thursday morning that he would be ready to apologise to the medics, and that “today it will happen”.

Skride also revealed that the government must produce a clear plan of how and when the medic's requirements will be fulfilled, otherwise the committee won't support next year's budget.

Protesters emphasised that apologies from politicians don't give them anything, they want action.

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