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Doctors’ Strike Weaker Than Planned

October 31, 1996

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ An island-wide doctors’ strike drew fewer participants than expected, and had little impact Wednesday on chronically understaffed medical centers.

Adalberto Mendoza, president of the Puerto Rican School of Medical Surgeons, had said Tuesday that 95 percent of the island’s doctors would close their clinic doors to pressure the government to raise fees in its managed health care system.

But he said Wednesday that only 1,800 of the island’s 8,000 doctors had joined the strike. Government officials estimated fewer than 1,000 did.

While patients complained of long lines, most health clinics remained open, according to television news reports.

The doctors were protesting Gov. Pedro Rossello’s managed health care program, which began in 1994 and already covers a million patients.

They claim the $34 they receive per month for each card-holding patient is too low to cover pricey operations and laboratory tests.

``Doctors in the United States would charge $150 per person to cover such a service,″ said Ausberto Alejandro, representative for the medical association in the southern Guaynabo region.

``They are asking doctors to perform miracles. We face a real ethical dilemma every day over which corners we can afford to cut without risking lives.″

Health Secretary Carmen Feliciano accused the striking doctors of ``shocking irresponsibility,″ adding in a news conference that the move ``did not have an ounce of support island-wide.″

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