A group of ambulance crews from the Absheron District Central Hospital in eastern Azerbaijan have held a protest against poor working conditions and unpaid bonuses.
During the protest on Wednesday, protesters complained that despite working with patients who are running a fever, they have not received the promised bonuses to their salaries.
On 18 March, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that medical workers dealing with COVID-19 patients would receive additional monthly payments equivalent to ‘3-5 times’ their monthly salaries.
In addition to demanding unpaid bonuses, the workers also complained of poor working conditions. They said they were forced to pay for repairs on ambulances with their own personal funds, that their medical equipment was in poor condition, and that patients were made to pay for petrol.
‘The President’s decision is not being executed’, one protester told reporters. ‘The [workers of] the polyclinics of Absheron District are all paid additional bonuses, but we were not.’
They said that they had written a complaint to President Ilham Aliyev but had not received a response.
Habil Abdulrahimov, an ambulance driver, said that two doctors, one ambulance driver, and one other medical worker at their hospital had been infected with COVID-19.
‘We also work with patients who have a fever. We have children at home, whom we see after visiting those patients. Why should the President’s decision not apply to us?’, he said.
Aynura Ahmadova, the chief spokesperson for the State Agency for Compulsory Medical Insurance, told Qafqazinfo that the protesters were not exposed to infected patients.
‘The protesters provide medical and emergency services on other calls’, she said. ‘The calls connected with coronavirus infection in the Absheron District are responded to by the Baku Emergency Medical Service.’
According to her, medical and non-medical staff involved in the fight against COVID-19 working at the Emergency Medical Service received an additional ₼346 ($200) in March, ₼391 ($230) in April, and ₼350 ($205) in May.
She said that roughly ₼1,000,000 ($640,000) has been paid out in bonuses to medical workers throughout the country so far.