The fifth national protest of medical workers in Bulgaria took place on December 15 and 16, 2019. The protesting health workers once again raised their demands for decent working conditions and for the elimination of trade companies in the healthcare sector. The protest was a further step in the months-long battle of medical professionals, which began on March 1, 2019. As a means of the struggle, they formed a new union – the Union of Bulgarian Medical Specialists (SBMS).
The protest began at 1pm on December 15 at “Independence” Square in Sofia. The SBMS representatives informed the attendees about the main problems of the healthcare system. It has been reported that in the current system, health has become a commodity, patients have become customers, and doctors have become traders. Speeches were made by patients, creators and people supporting the struggles of healthcare professionals. A poem inspired by the creation of the new syndicate of medical professionals was read. Then a short march to the Ministry of Health was held, traffic on the central streets of Sofia was blocked. The procession ended again in front of the Council of Ministers, followed by a short concert by the band “Forbidden Symbols” in solidarity with the struggles of health workers.
A tent camp was built at “Independence” Square, with medical professionals vowing to stay there despite the cold weather in December, until they were received at a meeting by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who himself would hear about health issues . The evening continued with folk dances and music and talks about health issues. Protesting nurses demonstrated cooking skills and cooked an impromptu outdoor dinner. Despite the cold temperatures, they remained all night on the square and insisted on their demands.
On the following day, December 16, the protest continued. Citizens who heard about the health workers’ protests began to come and to support them, some of them carrying food and hot drinks. At noon at the tent camp, Health Minister Kiril Ananiev appeared personally and invited the workers to a meeting with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov the next day at 10:00. The minister called on the protesting medical specialists to leave the square and come home, but they categorically refused.
At 17:30 by “accident” the police, the medical specialists were told that there was a meeting between them and Boyko Borisov, for which they were not informed. At that time, most of them were on media outlets and out of place. Changing the time of the meeting and announcing it in such a strange way just one hour before it takes place hinders the preparation of protesting health workers for it. However, they presented themselves with dignity, presenting their position and the problems of the class to the Prime Minister. They revealed the viciousness of clinical pathways, companies, and healthcare corruption.
The purpose of the protest was fulfilled. A meeting was held between representatives of the SBMS and the Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, the problems of health care workers became a major topic in the public space for days. There is now a stubborn and vigorous struggle to defend the interests of healthcare professionals until all the demands raised are met.