Thousands protest in Riga over healthcare funding, municipal reform

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-07 22:23:02|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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RIGA, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Two protests -- one staged by medics demanding a promised wage increase and the other organized by opponents of a municipal reform -- brought several thousand people to Latvia's parliament building here on Thursday morning, local media reported.

The healthcare workers' protest dubbed "A Day Without a Doctor," which included a one-day strike and a picket, was held after the government had failed to raise the medics' salaries by 20 percent as promised and only offered a 10 percent pay increase.

The protest was joined by all kinds of medical employees, from physicians, medical nurses and their assistants to residents and also medical students. The medics stressed that they were fighting not for their salaries but for healthcare in Latvia, as the outflow of underpaid medics from the country has caused severe staff shortages in many healthcare institutions nationwide.

According to the Latvian Medical Association, the medics' rally outside the parliament building drew some 4,000 participants, including members of the public.

As the healthcare workers were holding their protest, opponents of the municipal reform, planned by the Regional Development Ministry, also arrived to stage their "people's rally" against the much-criticized reform plan.

The protest against the municipal reform, organized by the opposition Greens and Farmers Union and the Latvian Association of Regions, blended with the medics' rally, but the events passed off peacefully under heavy police presence.

Responding to the medics' protest, Parliament Speaker Inara Murniece and Health Minister Ilze Vinkele offered apologies to the healthcare workers for the government's inability to provide the required funding. They blamed the previous government coalition for making reckless promises that could not be kept against the backdrop of weaker than expected economic growth.