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8 Nicaraguan Doctors Say They Were Fired for Treating Protesters

Friends and colleagues gather during a vigil in honor of Brazilian medical student Rayneia Lima, who was shot and killed in Managua, Nicaragua, July 26, 2018.

Eight public hospital doctors in Nicaragua said Friday that they have been fired after violating alleged orders not to treat wounded protesters opposing President Daniel Ortega’s government.

The Associated Press saw several of the dismissal letters signed by the director of the Oscar Danilo Rosales Arguello hospital in the western city of Leon, and they did not specify a cause.

But Javier Pastora Membreno, who was head of surgery and endoscopy for the hospital before he was among those let go, said that “our crime is having tended to the wounded from the protests or having supported the marches in some way, asking for justice, freedom and a real democracy.”

“We are doctors, not terrorists,” he said.

There have been complaints for weeks that anti-government protesters were being turned away from public medical facilities, but Ortega and his government insist no such order ever existed.

“It is totally false that anyone has been denied attention in the hospitals,” the president said in an interview with Fox News broadcast this week.

Health Minister Sonia Castro also said previously that Nicaragua’s health system “has never, at any time, been closed to any treatment.” The hospital director declined to be interviewed.

Pastora, who had worked for the Health Ministry for 33 years, spoke Friday at a demonstration outside the hospital to protest the firings. The other fired doctors were there along with a hundred or more demonstrators.

Those sacked worked in diverse fields such as pediatrics, spinal medicine, gastroenterology, oncological surgery and pediatrics. They included the only doctor in the municipality specializing in infectious diseases.

“I do not know if the ministry authorities are clear on what this decision means for the quality of attention to the people and for the training of doctors,” Pastora said.

At least 448 people have been killed, most of them protesters, since the protests began in April. Demonstrators were initially upset over proposed social security cuts but are now demanding Ortega leave office after a deadly crackdown by security forces and armed pro-government civilians. Aaron Delgado said he was performing surgery on a breast cancer patient when he was interrupted and told to report to human resources. There he received his dismissal notice.

“They did not even let me finish the operation,” Delgado said. “All this because a month ago outside the hospital we treated the wounded from a massacre perpetrated by the government’s paramilitaries against citizens who were at barricades in the neighborhoods of Leon.”