Saturday, July 27, marked a year since we were fired from the “Oscar Danilo Rosales Arguello” Teaching Hospital in Leon, Nicaragua. Very early that day, Hospital Director Judith Lejarza, in the role of Angel of Death, gave the fateful news to the first group of doctors and hospital workers that they had been fired from Nicaragua’s public hospitals, for completely political reasons.
Later, like a domino effect, hundreds of other colleagues from the health field in the rest of the country would suffer the same fate, with no consideration for our labor rights nor for the legal contracts that supposedly protected us as workers. They began to merely identify as enemies those of us who thought differently from the strict line put forth by “his holiness”, our fraternal Government that now punishes us like Prometheus, for all eternity.
Since political affinity became the primary criteria for working at a public hospital instead of scientific competence the effects have been many and tragic for both patients and the health professionals. These include, thousands of doctor’s visits lost; an increase in hospital-related deaths and an almost complete end to the cooperation of specialized foreign brigades in the affected hospitals.
Other causalities were a loss of exchange programs for medical residents in US hospitals; effects on medical programs of national importance; an end to subsidized programs for training specialists in plastic surgery in foreign universities in the United States and Switzerland and an absolute drop in the quality of post-graduate medical specialty training.
Likewise we have seen a drastic suspension of aid for the purchase of endoscopic and surgical devices and materials; a negative effect on programs for medical research with foreign universities; a substantial qualitative loss of highly trained specialists in areas such as neonatal care, pediatric infections (so critical now with the many epidemics), surgical oncology, gynecological and gastrointestinal pathology, anesthesiology, plastic surgery, orthopedic spinal surgery, advanced liver and pancreatic endoscopy, all so needed to resolve cases of patients that have been referred from all over Nicaragua.
All, absolutely all of this, was executed with no thought of the loss and suffering of the patients affected by this enormous injustice committed against men and women whose only crime was to maintain their commitment to the ethics and human dignity of freedom of opinion.
And, sadly, in the face of this enormous injustice, the Pan-American Health Organization, a very important regional organization in the health field, has said absolutely NOTHING.
Exiled doctors, like the rest of Nicaraguans, dream of returning to their country and of finding a free and peaceful place – something that right now is impossible.
If we could turn back the clock, I’m sure that the majority of my colleagues would do the same thing that we felt called upon to do just over a year ago: to look around us, to raise our voices and follow our consciences to yell “FREEDOM!”; and to guarantee medical attention to all our patients, so that health care would never again become a political tool, but be a truly universal right that is guaranteed to all of us, regardless of ideology.
During the reign of terror of the French revolution, before the head of wise Lavoisier was condemned to roll on the guillotine there, the despotic leader Coffinhal, upon hearing phrases in favor of the wise man, pronounced these historic words: “The Republic has no need for wise men or chemists, the course of justice can’t be slowed.”
These gentlemen and ladies in our government now seem to be saying: “Our Revolution has no need of doctors who think differently from us.”
By and by, we’ll see what history has to say about that.