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Lebanon's leading coronavirus hospital stages second protest in three weeks

The Rafic Hariri University Hospital in Beirut has staged protests over the non-payment of their rightful salaries

For the second time since the outbreak of coronavirus in Lebanon, the Rafic Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) in Beirut has staged protests over the non-payment of their rightful salaries, local media outlet Naharnet reported.

In a statement the committee of employees and contract workers said that "employees and staff at the hospital have suffered and sacrificed since the opening of the hospital, especially during the spread of coronavirus, but until this moment they have not received their full rights such as the [salaries based on the 2017] wage scale law."

The group, which held a sit-in at 10am today, are protesting the non-payment of salaries and demanding they receive a raise in line with the wage scale law passed in 2017.

They allege that the entire public sector, including other governmental hospitals, have benefitted from the salary hike, except from the RHUH.

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The committee said that "administration and related authorities" are guilty "of unacceptable negligence and underestimation of [the] rights" of workers at the RHUH.

The move comes after Lebanon's Finance Ministry announced in a statement yesterday that it had paid all its dues to public and private hospitals to cover the costs of uninsured medical care but did not mention employees' salaries.

The RHUH is the largest public institution of its kind in the country and has been at the forefront of Lebanon's fight against coronavirus. It is the only hospital providing free COVID-19 testing in Lebanon and has received several suspected and confirmed cases from the across the country.

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The hospital's committee previously went on an open-ended administrative strike on 12 March over the non-payment of hiked salaries and poor working conditions.

At the time, the group said that the government was "worried about the coronavirus, but not (sic) worried about the employees [fighting] against the coronavirus."

The second strike comes as Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned that the state was struggling to cope with the outbreak on Tuesday, and Druze leader Walid Joumblatt called for seaside hospitals to be seized and used to isolate coronavirus patients on Thursday.

Joumblatt called the pandemic more dangerous than terrorism and appealed to the government "to declare a state of emergency, seeing as death is at the doors and coronavirus is more dangerous than an Israeli invasion."

READ: Lebanon asks citizens and diaspora for money to fight coronavirus

The Druze leader added a suggestion of "asking South Korea and China for help in the face of coronavirus in light of their successful experiences in the fight against the virus."

The country has been on lockdown since 15 March, with restrictions not to set to be lifted until 12 April at the earliest. Lebanon's health ministry has reported 391 confirmed coronavirus cases to date, among them 20 recoveries and seven deaths.

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