Lao Doctors, Nurses Demand Overtime Pay Owed For Work Containing COVID

Over 800 health-care workers in southern provinces of Laos are calling on authorities to pay them for extra hours worked this year in hospitals and quarantine centers while attempting to control the spread of coronavirus, based on sources in the one-party communist state.

However, official sources say that only regular salaries and special disbursements for disease get a grip on will be paid as Laos struggles to help keep its economy on track amid business shutdowns and sharp reductions in the number of taxes.

In the Outhoumphone district of Savannakhet province, 110 medical practioners and nurses have not yet been taken care of overtime hours worked since March at centers create to house over 3,000 Lao workers returning from Thailand, sources say.

“I haven’t received any overtime pay since December,” one nurse told RFA’s Lao Service on July 1.

“We’ve been checking returned workers for signs of infection with COVID, but we barely have enough money now to buy food,” the nurse said, adding, “We’ve been waiting for our pay month after month, but nothing has ever come.”

In Savannakhet’s Champhone district meanwhile, very nearly 200 medical practioners and nurses have still not been paid for overtime worked between January and June, one doctor said, telling RFA that buy extra hours worked is definitely paid previously with the approval of upper-level managers.

“Here in Champhone, 182 medical practioners and nurses received just one single month of overtime pay in December 2019, but we haven’t received any overtime pay yet for work we’ve done in 2010. Working for the government and the [ruling] Party is leaving us depressed,” that he said.

“If we don’t receive our pay, we still have to work anyway,” he said. “It is impossible for us not to do our jobs.”

Government ‘short on funds’

In Champassak province, in the country’s southwest, 550 doctors and nurses in the provincial hospital have still maybe not been taken care of overtime worked from January to June, but comprehend the province has no funds with which to pay them during the present shutdown, one doctor said.

“The authorities don’t have our money yet because of COVID-19. Even though our pay has been cut, we just go ahead with our duties and do our jobs well, and we plant vegetables when we’re at home” that he said.

“We use our regular salaries to call home as usual, and we will receive [the rest] whenever it is directed at us,” he said. “We understand that the government needs to have an income, so we will be given our pay sooner or later depending on their circumstances.”

Reductions in state revenue, including a three-month drop in tax payments, have remaining the Lao government unable now to cover overtime worked by medical practioners and nurses for the last six to seven months, a government official in Savannakhet told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Income tax collected has fallen short of earlier projections, with only 33 to 34 percent collected during these last six months of what we usually get,” the official said.

“Additionally, the Ministry of Finance has announced that health care workers will now receive only their regular pay in addition to special disbursements to control coronavirus spread,” that he said.

Calls from RFA seeking comment from officials in the main city Vientiane rang unanswered.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Manichanh Phimphachanh. Written in English by Richard Finney.