Russian medics threaten hunger strike over unpaid pandemic bonuses

Ambulance crews in a Russian town plan to protest after not receiving bonuses promised to those who work with COVID-19 patients

By Laura French

RUSSIA — Ambulance personnel in a Russian town have vowed to go on a hunger strike next week if the government does not pay out bonuses promised to medical workers during the pandemic. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered all medics who treat COVID-19 patients to receive up to 80,000 rubles, equal to about $1,100, by May 14, according to The Moscow Times. However, medics in the town of Anzhero-Sudzhensk in the region of Kemerovo in Siberia have said that only those who hospitalize patients confirmed to have the virus are being paid.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin confirmed this week that only about 4.5 billion rubles ($57 million) of the 27 billion ($343 million) allocated for the bonuses have been paid out. 

The Anzhero-Sudzhensk ambulance crews said in a video message addressing Putin that they will go on hunger strike on Monday unless they receive payments.

"If the payments are due, why aren't they delivered properly? Why do we always have to prove something to everyone?" one worker said in the video, translated from Russian by the Moscow Times. 

In the video, the ambulance personnel also show their PPE and say they have had to reuse gowns and sew their own masks, according to the Moscow Times. 

Putin said in a statement Friday that medics should be paid in full and that he would look into the issue in the coming week. The Ministry of Health for the Kemerovo region responded to the medics' video, saying that the employees did not work directly with infected patients and were not eligible for the payments. 

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