November 26, 2020

COVID-19 unleashes discrimination in Colombia against those who save lives

The coronavirus pandemic has debated in Colombia the precarious employment situation of numerous doctors, nurses and health personnel who now also face discrimination from neighbors who believe they can infect them with COVID-19.

After the nightly applause with which Colombians recognized the work of health professionals, doctors and nurses at the beginning of the pandemic, they have denounced different forms of social rejection in recent days.

In cities like Bogotá and Barranquilla, there are reports that public bus drivers pass by the stations when they see them in white, forcing them to hide their uniforms in order to access transportation.

Given this, Transmilenio, the Bogotá public bus company, put into operation 11 preferential routes this Wednesday for health personnel and other workers in the sector, which will pass near the main hospitals in the city.


Doctors have also reported hostility from neighbors who ask those who live for rent to vacate the house, as happened to the young Cristian Botache, expelled from a group of apartments he had recently moved to in the city of Cali (southwest ).

“They think that someone who works in a hospital should not live in the same building where they live,” Botache told Caracol TV.

Something similar happened to a nursing assistant from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Meintegral of the Regional Hospital of Lebanon, in the department of Tolima (center), who told Efe that last Sunday they were not allowed to enter a supermarket despite the fact that there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in that locality.


Different medical organizations have spoken to express their emphatic rejection of this discrimination “that begins to appear in the different cities of the country.”

“Nothing justifies such behavior that must be addressed immediately by the respective authorities and entities,” the Colombian Pediatric Society said in a statement, according to which, “the best applause that can be received is that of respect and consideration” towards health personnel.

Given the increase in these attacks, Colombian President Iván Duque announced today sanctions for those who do not respect those who risk their lives on a daily basis to save those infected with COVID-19 and ensure the health of the general population.

“Discrimination seems absurd to me, it seems absurd to me, it seems inadmissible, it also seems to me that it is clumsy,” Duque said in an interview with Radio Nacional.

The president assured that whoever discriminates against health personnel “must not only have a great social sanction, but must also have an economic sanction.”

Duque stressed that if a person tests positive for coronavirus “we cannot judge anything, because tomorrow we can be the ones who have it.”


The president also referred to the conditions of health workers and said that they must be “valued, because they are giving everything, absolutely everything, for our country.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the precarious working conditions of health personnel, including doctors, many of whom lack fixed contracts.

According to data from the sector, 75% of physicians in Colombia are general practitioners, representing a workforce of 55,000 practicing professionals.

Most of them, as well as many specialists “are hired by the Order of Provision of Services (OPS) modality, which does not include bonuses, vacations, or any of the benefits provided by law,” explained the gynecologist Alberto Pérez.

Colombian doctors also have to deal with constant delays in monthly payments by hospitals, clinics or Health Provider Companies (EPS), which by Law 100 of 1993, which reformed the health system, act as intermediaries between the State and health centers.

“What to do now: Pay late payrolls, guarantee biosecurity” to doctors, nurses and assistants, claimed Senator Roy Barreras, a doctor by profession, on his Twitter account.

According to Barreras, given the demand for health personnel for the coronavirus, the Government must ensure resources for hospitals and regional Health Secretariats to hire supernumeraries, as well as to hire all the doctors who are about to complete their training and “pay all residents” For his job.

The Colombian Ministry of Health confirmed 159 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 1,065, and registering one more deceased, increasing the death toll to 17.


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