Protesting Nurses Barricade Themselves in Parliament's Building, Cause Conflicting Political Reactions
March 6 (BTA) - After five protesting nurses barricaded themselves in Parliament's building on Sofia's Independence Square late on Thursday, remaining inside to the present moment, political parties and professional organizations Friday reacted with conflicting positions on the nurses' civil disobedience.
These events come after on March 1 healthcare professionals said they are launching indefinite protests over inadequate working conditions, low pay and understaffing, the same reasons that drove them to protest repeatedly in 2019.
In a statement to the media, parliamentary Healthcare Committee Chair Daniela Daritkova of GERB described the protestors' actions as a provocation. She said that before they barricaded themselves in a room inside Parliament's building, the nurses barged in amid a sitting of the Healthcare Committee at 4 pm on Thursday. In her words, the nurses in no way tried to communicate with the Committee members, and spoke only with journalists. "I dare claim responsibly that, according to me, that was a purposeful, organized provocation," Daritkova said.
One of the nurses purposefully went to stand on the ledge of a window during all TV channels' prime time, Daritkova added. In her words, it was extremely risky to leave a woman in an unstable psychological state on a window ledge, and two notable representatives of the National Service for Protection (NSP) were unable to handle the situation. According to her, dialogue should be sought but in no case should unlawful actions be tolerated.
Approached for comment, President Rumen Radev said that the NSP should act in accordance with its instructions for protection of such sensitive sites like Parliament's building but, according to him, the current problem is not a security issue. This problem should be solved not by the NSP but by the Health Ministry and the parliamentary Healthcare Committee, he argued.
Labour and Social Policy Minister Denitsa Sacheva commented that the present situation includes both reasonable demands and specific provocations that have been directed for a whole week now for the purpose of media attention and tension. "If someone tells you that they want a reform in healthcare and that they will not leave the parliamentary chamber until that reform happens, how do you see this: as a demand for dialogue or an active provocation?" Sacheva asked. She underscored she does not know who is behind the protestors, but the politicians supporting them are visible: Maya Manolova and the Vuzrazhdane party. Sacheva was referring to the presence of former BSP member and national ombudsman Maya Manolova in the building and the presence of representatives of the Vuzrazhdane party outside.
Approached for comment, nurses protesting outside of Parliament's building told journalists that their protest is not political.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) accused the incumbent of arrogance and lack of courage to solve the problems in the healthcare system. Reading a declaration on behalf of her parliamentary group, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova described the protesting nurses' actions as "an unprecedented act of despair". According to her, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov lied when he said 50 million leva will be allocated to raise nurses' salaries. The nurses' demands are grounded and fair, she added. Among the solutions proposed by the Socialists is a reduction of the VAT on medicinal products and the adoption of an ordinance regulating the salaries in the healthcare sector.
Nigyar Dzhafer MP of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms expressed her parliamentary group's support for the protestors' demands. According to her, it is better to solve issues through dialogue with the institutions. She called for talks but also for the sides to listen to each other, because the talks held thus far have not produced results.
In a position on the nurses' protest, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB) and the Federation of Trade Unions in Healthcare with the CITUB
say they are against the use of provocative instruments during protest actions, the inclusion of politicians in them, and a purposeful disruption of the public order. The CITUB and the Federation recall that they have always supported and will support the demands of every person who is fighting and protesting for higher salaries and better working conditions, but there are legally established ways to do this. Everyone must abide by the law, the position reads.
In a declaration of its governing board, the Bulgarian Medical Association (BMA) describes the actions of the five protesting nurses as "absurd and inadmissible". BMA Deputy Chairman Nikolay Gabrovski told journalists that the BMA has supported healthcare professionals' fair demands, but this time the Association will not participate in "a substitution of the democratic process".
Bulgarian Association of Healthcare Professionals head Milka Vassileva said that the problems in the healthcare sector have been ignored for twenty years, which has led to the current situation. She said her organization supports the protesting nurses' demands but not the way in which these demands are being made.
Andrey Markov of the Bulgarian Hospital Association called inadmissible "the acts of terrorism through which someone wants to solve one's problems", and he called on the Government and the law enforcement bodies to take measures.