Sunday, August 24, 2008

Congo Doctors Strike

Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and setting for many scenes in Heart of Diamonds, is a metropolis of 8,000,000 people served by a dozen public hospitals and 2,700 doctors. Those doctors went on strike this week.

The cause was low salaries. Doctors in public hospitals earn about 120,000 Congolese francs per month, including bonuses. That works out to about $216, or roughly the price of a 15-minute office visit to a doctor in America.

A spokesman for Synamed, the union representing the physicians, accused the government of reneging on an agreement to provide an extra $3.6 million for salary increases in July following a previous strike in January. "Nothing has been done since, so we have decided to begin a general strike from today," said Synamed chief Mankoy Badjoky on Monday. The strike will continue until "the government honors its commitments," Badjoky added. Nearly all doctors in Kinshasa took part in the strike this week while it was also observed in other cities.

The doctors are demanding a salary of 320,000 Congolese francs ($580) per month as well as payment of a risk bonus and permanent appointments for doctors with temporary employment.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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