Mike Leidig
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319
Wed, 12.02.2003
pte20030212034 Health/Medicine
Pressbox Pressbox
Croatian doctors urged to end strike
Union measures blamed for unnecessary deaths

Zagreb (pte034/12.02.2003/14:18) - Croatian doctors have been warned to end a one-month strike action amid claims that 13 people have died as a direct result of their actions, as reported by HRT Web

The Croatian Department of Health confirmed that it believed the month-long industrial action organised by the Croatian Doctor's Union (HLS) over pay and conditions had claimed lives, but declined to say how many patients this was in total.

The Department of Health has however set up a special free phone complaints hotline for people to call to report doctors who they accuse of breaking their Hippocratic oath, a move unions say is a way of putting pressure on the strikers.

Croatian media have carried a spate of reports about what they claim are 13 alleged deaths, including a report in the weekly news magazine the Feral Tribune which carried the headline "Croatian Doctor's Killed My Mother".

Speaking at a press conference in the wake of media outrage, Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan said concern was now so great the government planned to force the union to back down and let doctors go back to work in an effort to "protect patients and the dignity of doctors as well".

He said: "The government will take clear action."

The HLS, which represents 90 per cent of the country's doctors, called the strike to back its demands for a 27 per cent hike in wages. The average salary for a doctor in Croatia is roughly 750 pounds per month. Under the terms of the strike doctors will only deal with patients requiring essential or urgent medical attention.

The Croatian Health Ministry spokesman in Zagreb said that if the doctors rejected the Prime Minister's appeal then they could be ordered to return to normal service by invoking a provision in the Croatian constitution which allows the government to force people working in the public sector to call off strikes. The spokesman did not give a timetable, but added if that failed for whatever reason, they could then sue the organizers of the strike.

Union leader Ivica Babic speaking last night (Mon) on Croatian television dismissed the Health ministry claims and media reports of deaths as a result of the strike, and insisted that no-one had died.

He accused the media of acting as the puppet of the government and conspiring to influence public opinion by turning it against doctors. He also pledged that the strike would continue regardless of what legal action was taken.

A doctor's union spokesman in the southern town of Split who asked not to be named said: "We could set a limit of 40 minutes per patient consultation, as we are allowed to under law. That wouldn't be a real strike, but would create chaos. We still have a lot of options whatever they do."

Submitter: pressetext.europe
Contact: Mike Leidig
Phone: + 43 - 1 - 811 40 - 319