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  • A recent graduate of medical school in Bolivia earns about $200 a month working for public hospitals. The pay is bad but - according to the physicians - the conditions are even worse. No beds, no supplies, and a single nurse for an entire floor of patients.

    The official work day in a public hospital is six hours. Typically this is because a doctor cannot survive on a public salary alone, so they usually have a private practice as well. Like most doctors everywhere, their days are long. But working two jobs is, in effect, a way for people with money to subsidize the medical attention of the poor in Bolivia - as the pay a doctor earns from a private practice allows them to continue working for the public benefit.

    About a month ago, the government changed the law to require all medical personnel to work an eight hour day. 33% more hours, in the government's mind, means 33% more patients attended. The doctors say that the problems in Bolivian medicine will not be solved with an extra two hours.

    So they struck. And have continued to strike for the last three weeks.

    Today medical students began crucifying themselves (symbolically, thankfully) and donating blood with which they wrote their protest signs. This syringe is full of one volunteer's blood, asking for more hospitals instead of more work and for no additional pay. So far, the government has not responded to their demands except with police repression.
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