Strike by physicians ruled illegal, but appeal likely

A labor court has ruled illegal the long-running strike by anesthesiologists who work for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social.

The ruling was by the Juzgado de Trabajo del Segundo Circuito Judicial, and the Poder Judicial said that all parties to the case had been notified. There was no indication if the anesthesiologists would return to work. Nearly 2,000 operations at public hospitals have been delayed by the strike which began at mid-month.

The case is of interst to expats because foreigners with the various types of residency are required to join the Caja health services. One expat accident victim had to use private insurance and received treatment at Hospital Hotel la Católica last week because he languished for five days at Hospital Calderón Guardia without a needed operation.

For every expat there are hundreds of Costa Ricans who have had needed medical work canceled.

The labor court said that the work by the physicians was essential and therefore was covered by a section of the labor law and that health also was a constitutional right enshrined in the Costa Rican Constitution.

There are about 100 physicians who are members of the striking anesthesiologists association. An appeal of the labor court decision is likely. If the ruling is upheld, the physicians could suffer financial penalties.

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda already said that representatives of the Caja are seeking replacements in Colombian and Cuba.

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