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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, July 25) - Hospitals and health centers around the country are operating on skeleton staff after members of the Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) walked off their jobs at midnight.

[PIR editor’s note: According to the Fiji Sun, some 1,500 nurses walked off their jobs early today. ]

A little over 100 nurses are left to attend to patients with the help of police officers, student nurses, retired nurses and volunteers brought in as part of the interim Government's contingency plan for the strike.

In the main hospital in Suva, nurses walked out of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital at midnight and were transported to the FNA head office to picket. Nurses in other major centers have done the same while awaiting further negotiations between FNA officials and the interim Government.

This morning, the CWMH general outpatients unit was closed and only the emergency unit was open to the public. Only three nurses were in attendance at the unit. Six midwives at the CWMH maternity ward said they would walk off their jobs at 6 a.m. today since they were busy in the delivering rooms last night. Senior nurses were also stationed in essential service, such as the maternity ward and intensive care units. The nurses at the hospital say the next level of their strike will be to withdraw from these departments too.

The FNA is demanding full restoration of the five-percent pay cut imposed by the interim Government early this year.

Interim Public Service Minister Poseci Bune said the interim Government can only afford to pay 1 percent, which is equivalent to FJ$6 million [US$3.8 million].

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