RIGA, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The Latvian association of general practitioners, or family physicians as they are called in the Baltic country, has called an indefinite strike starting July 3 after the Health Ministry rejected a proposal to set up a reconciliation panel, the local media reported on Monday.
Sarmite Veide, the head of the Latvian Association of Family Physicians, told lsm.lv public media website that the decision to strike was taken already in May but that before announcing the action the association offered the Health Ministry to form the reconciliation commission to find a compromise solution to the medics' pay issues.
Of the 1,160 family physicians united in the association 609 voted for the protest, which will also be joined by the Latvian Association of Rural Family Physicians.
"We have been staging pickets and holding negotiations, but there has been no response from the Health Ministry or government so far," Veide said.
During the strike, beginning on July 3, the family physicians will not be providing government-funded health care services, except for emergency services. The association is determined to continue the strike until the government meets the medics' demands.
Veide said that the government still has no plan for raising salaries for the family physicians, medical nurses and assistants. The medics are also upset about some extra duties they will be expected to perform after the health care reform.
Furthermore, many doctors are fretting over the new electronic health system, which is already in use in a test mode but will become mandatory in two months' time. The family physicians claim the e-health system is "weak and ineffective", the head of the association said.
"The national health care system is on the brink of collapse. This is a desperate measure," Veide said, explaining the decision to call the medics' strike.
Latvian Health Minister Anda Caksa said she had invited the association to talks next Monday, June 19, stressing that the ministry is open to talks, but that setting up a reconciliation commission requires a legal framework.
The health minister also described the issue of health care funding as the "most pressing one".
Prime Minster Maris Kucinskis, meanwhile, indicated that the family physicians' issues have to tackled in the context of the whole health sector, admitting that the problem has to be dealt urgently.
Kucinskis also said that his center-right coalition government tends to consider raising social tax in order to provide the funding needed for the health sector. Enditem