On Wednesday 21 September, doctors and other medical staff took to the streets in Kinshasa to demand better working conditions. Although the demonstration was authorised, the police violently repressed the action.
Poor working conditions
Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike for months. They accuse the government of failing to deliver on its promises, including higher salaries, lighter workloads and guaranteed good pensions. The majority of doctors are joining the strike, but they are providing minimal services.
After months of strike action, doctors from the National Union of Doctors (SYNAMED) and the Free Union of Doctors (SYLMED) decided that the strike was not producing enough results. They therefore took the initiative of a peaceful demonstration on Wednesday 21 September. This would allow them to express their discontent in a different way and push the government to improve working conditions in the sector.
Répression à Kinshasa
As the doctors progressed from Avenue des Huileries to the Boulevard, a confrontation took place with the Kinshasa police. The police stopped the demonstration and brought it to an end. However, peaceful demonstrations are allowed and the organisers had obtained all the necessary permits for the demonstration.
The doctors, determined to resist, resisted the ban and continued their march. In response, the police reacted very violently. Some demonstrators were beaten, kicked, abused and injured. Others were arrested and then released.
The doctors’ indignation at the police action is great. They want to continue the strike through the “hospitals without doctors” movement. Even if the strike has a significant impact on the quality of care in public hospitals. Under normal circumstances, access to decent health care is already compromised for 90% of the population. It is therefore essential that the demands of striking doctors are met. This will allow staff to continue to work in good conditions and better guarantee the Congolese population’s right to health.
Viva Salud is working in Congo to improve the working conditions of health workers and to increase access to quality public health care. We therefore fully support the actions and demands of health workers. Our two Congolese partners, Si Jeunesse Savait and Etoile du Sud, met in early October with representatives of SYNAMED, the doctors’ union, to discuss an action plan and join forces. Other health organisations are also invited to join the campaign, to disseminate it and to reinforce the call to the government to respond to the doctors’ demands.