Togolese Hospital Strike

9 07 2010

The past few weeks here at Centre-Medico et Sociale have been eventful and slightly tumultuous.  At the beginning of last week, all medical personnel in Togo went on strike, included those at CMS.  The laboratory here closed for the duration, and non-essential workers stayed home.  Clinic operations did not completely shut down, though.  A skeleton crew in the consultation and maternity units still accepted ill patients and women in labor.  The crew still considered themselves on strike, but as they explained to me, “People still get sick.”  They expressed their participation in the strike by not wearing their white medical coats.  During the 5-day strike, I continued to go to the clinic each morning in order to help out where I could.  My usual workload consisting of taking patients’ weights, heights and temperatures was greatly reduced, however, as during the strike many citixens seemed to stay home unless very ill.

In the meantime, I took the opportunity to learn more about the reasons and motivations for the strike.  When I told the nurses in the maternity unit that my academic interests lie in health policy, they eagerly enumerated their complaints with the Togolese government.  In general, medical personnel in Togo feel they are not being appropriately compensated.  In 2008 the medical union and the government signed an agreement to improve matters, but thus far no major changes have been made.  In particular, the medical workers here want more health insurance coverage.  Many do not receive any coverage at all.  Working in a high-risk environment, they feel entitled to better coverage.   One nurse also claimed that she has not been paid since December.

The strike ended this past Monday, with no concessions from the government being granted.  The medical union has pledged to resume the strike again soon in order to force the government to accept their terms.  While the immediate impact of the government’s nonresponse on the clinics and citizens is clear, the long-term effects should also be considered.  Issues over compensation have led many Togo-born doctoers and medical personnel to emigrate to other countries that can provide better pay and benefits.  This medical “brain drain” adversely affects the health of all citizens.

-Erin Boland

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One response

11 08 2010
Nikhil

hey Erin!

stumbled across your mini blog and just wanted to say hi. i’m a returned peace corps volunteer from Togo; i just finished my two years of service last week and i’ll be going to graduate school @ UNC this fall. hope you have a great rest of your trip in Togo and be happy you didn’t have to work with AMC…I worked with them this summer and had a LOT of issues. i’m glad they are going to strike again but it sucked for me because the week of the strike happened to be my last week in village and i wanted to take pictures of my work at the hospital but with the strike, all of my projects were cancelled…so i left with no pictures 😦 oh well.

a bientot,
– Nikhil

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