ZIMBABWE is experiencing what could be termed the worst industrial action by members of the medical fraternity since the birth of Christ. Junior Doctors, Senior Doctors and Registrars have all joined in the strike and nurses will soon be joining in.
In 2018 alone, Zimbabwe recorded three major strikes by health personnel which ended after government negotiated and promised to attend to the needs to of the striking doctors. As for the nurses, it did not end well for them as government through intervention of Vice President, Retried General Constantine Chiwenga fired the whole bunch without hesitation.
It is unfortunate and saddening to note that the same fate which befell nurses early 2018 has also landed on more than 500 junior doctors necks. Unlike the nurses who swiftly scurried for cover and reapplied for their posts, the junior doctors have remained defiant and it’s Alluta continua on their part.
Much to the discontentment of the striking doctors and other senior medial staff, Vice President Chiwenga and Health Minister Obadiah Moyo labelled the striking doctors mere students on internship. This is something the junior doctors have vehemently refused, they maintain that they are qualified for the job.
Just recently, government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) invited intern doctors to apply for jobs available at government health institutions in an attempt to fill up the gaps as well send a message to the striking doctors that they are not irreplaceable.
In as much as this would help in addressing the human resources issue, the fact still remains that they are intern doctors and still require senior doctors to take them through the ropes of surgery. According to Junior doctors spokesperson, Intern doctors or students are not allowed to operate or carry out surgical work on a human body without the custodianship of a senior medical doctor.
Considering that senior doctors also joined in the strike and much of the burden is currently being borne by Consultants who recently indicated that they will also be throwing in the towel owing to the overwhelming situation at hospitals, the health crisis can only deepen
This can only be a temporary solution to the real crisis, it is more like addressing the symptoms rather that the real problem. Prey yeh that this does not translate into a genocide owing botched surgeries or surgeries gone bad.
This is human lives at stake. Unlike other commodities, human life cannot be toyed with and politics should play very far from the medical field. Firing doctors, threatening them with unspecified action or replacing them with semi qualified interns will not solve the issues in the sector.
The health sector is currently faced with a myriad of challenges and government should act responsibly in an effort to address these issues. The issue of essential drugs and medicines still remains a challenge in as much as government and NatPahrm would want to portray a different picture.
Drugs are still in short supply and patients are being asked to part with hard currency for them to acquire drugs.
The issue of doctors’ salaries and allowances still remains a critical factor. No employee would perform to their maximum in the absence of a motivating remuneration package. Growing up, the doctors’ profession used to be the envy of every child. Every parent would constantly remind you to learn hard and become a doctor someday. With this kind of treatment, the doctors are getting, it’s sad that the noble profession is fast sliding into oblivion and all the years of hard work are going to waste.
These piecemeal gap filling tendencies masquerading as solutions to the ongoing crisis will only worsen the situation. If Delta could get foreign currency allocation for beer production, there surely is no point in 500 doctors asking for their salaries in US$.
What the health needs are concreate solutions to ensure the strikes don’t recur. Once politics starts micromanaging the health sector, government entangles itself in a fix that it would find difficult to get out.