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Three Die in South Sudan Hospital Hit by Strike

Health care workers in Bor agree to return to work after three people die at the hospital they work in.
Health care workers in Bor agree to return to work after three people die at the hospital they work in.
Hospital staff at Bor State Hospital ended a days'-old strike over unpaid bonuses Monday after three patients died at the weekend.

More than 250 hospital employees, including nurses, went on strike Friday, leaving only eight doctors and a few junior staff members to care for more than 60 patients.

John Logine, one of the patients, said they received almost no treatment since the strike started.

“Doctors did not come until a while ago when a white man came and helped us. We slept yesterday without medication," Logine said.

Hospital Ddirector Bior Kuer Bior said that although the deaths were not a direct result of the strike, the work stoppage had slowed patient care.

“We can confirm that we had three deaths in the hospital after the strike. When you are ill, you could die at any time. I don’t want to give an impression that they died because of the strike," he said.

Bior urged government health officials to pay the bonuses owed to the strikers or come up with another way to address the grievances of the staff.

More than 250 workers at the main hospital in Bor, capital of Jonglei state, walked off the job on Friday after a petition they submitted to the state ministry of health, demanding their bonuses of around 500 South Sudanese pounds (130 U.S. dollars) a month be restored, was ignored.

The striking workers say they are owed five months of bonuses and their salaries alone, which are between 300 and 700 South Sudanese pounds a month, are not enough to live on.

The per capita income in South Sudan is around U.S. $1,300 a year, thanks in large part to revenues from oil.

Hospital officials say the bonuses were suspended after austerity measures were introduced in the state following Juba's shutdown of oil production last year.

The strikers' agreement to end their walkout was only temporary, they said: they have threatened to go back on strike on Monday if their bonses are not paid.

The State Minister of Health Jehan Mechak Deng refused to comment today, but told VOA last week that she was working with state authorities to resolve the strike as quickly as possible. (DID SHE SAY HOW SHE WAS WORKING TO RESOLVE IT?

For VOA News, I am Manyang David Mayar, in Bor.