But the strike is also sweet meat to the local media which has gone to town with the strike stories. Someone told his friend in a commuter bus that the strike had come at the right time because it has given the media something else to write about. “I got tired reading about political party politics,” he said. It seems it is the media that has spread the strike throughout the country.
It began at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), but it quickly spread to other hospitals like Temeke, Amana, Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) and others in Dar es Salaam, and then to up-country hospitals like Morogoro, Dodoma, KCMC (in Moshi), Mbeya and others. This seems to suggest that the strike was not coordinated nationally but other doctors in other hospitals learnt about it with courtesy of the local media.
Nurses too, have joined the strike. According to them they have done so out of necessity because they say they cannot function separately from the doctors. Maybe they have a point here. However, I was expecting to read from the local media about how or what the editors see in the strike. The editors seem to be interested only in spreading the news about the strike and only superficially mention about its effects to the patients.
The doctors have made their claims and demands for them to go back to hospitals and attend the sick and dying. The fundamental demand is an increase in salary and other benefits. We know that salaries for civil servants in this country are low and every one would love a rise. Yes, the doctors have the right to demand what they consider to be fair remuneration for their crucial service. In fact civil servants from all sectors want a rise. We also understand that as it is now, doctors are the most highly paid civil servants in the country. It is not enough, fine, and they want more, fine.
They want better working conditions and other privileges, ok. This government must be the meanest and cruelest for denying the doctors their demands for a better pay package. Doesn’t the government know that without the doctors people will die as is the case now? Doesn’t the government understand that there are only a handful of citizens who can afford the exorbitant medical charges from private hospitals most of which are owned and run by the very doctors sometimes, or most of the time, using the same medicines and even equipment supposed to be found at the government hospitals?
Who is not aware that poor people are still dying in the hands of doctors, even without the strike, just because the patient or his/her relatives do not have money to buy blood for transfusion and which is supposed to be given out free of charge. The public is aware that this money goes into the pockets of chain of individuals (from the lowest ranking staff to specialists). Doesn’t the government realise that the profession is no longer a calling? That it is money oriented job like any other job? What they need is money, and people can die in their hundreds or thousands, without money, no going back to work.
Yes, the doctors are not expected to go hungry. They must eat, and eat good. In fact they must eat better than anyone else, because if they eat like any other civil servant they will die. They are superior to all other civil servant, and they have made this abundantly clear. That is why they want the Prime Minister to go to them, and not the other way round, just as they refused to go to the Minister. Who is the Prime Minister to them?
Let it be clear that the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, early this week said he was ready to meet them as soon as possible with the aim to find lasting solution to the standoff between medical doctors on internship and the ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Premier Pinda admitted, however, that there has been mishandling of the interns’ allowances claims. “Satisfactory and timely explanation from the ministry were missing. The ministry did not explain what happened. “Under normal circumstances the government pays salaries to those on permanent employment.
Others, including the interns, get their allowances through Other Charges (OC) account,” he explained, adding that the ministry had to explain this to the interns. Premier Pinda pleaded with the interns to return to their respective work stations for the sake of the patients whose survival is in their hands. He expressed optimism that their concerns would be dealt with amicably. “I am ready to meet and listen to them as soon as possible so that together we can solve this problem. “The duty to serve the lives of patients must not be compromised with problems that could be solved if we sit together.
Let them come so that we can solve the problems together,” the Prime Minister pleaded with the interns. The good life-saving doctors want at least 6m/- per month. This is peanuts to them and they know that the government can afford it and more. How can the government dare refuse them their demands? All government hospitals will be closed because there would not be any doctors working in such hospitals.
May be the government will turn the buildings into cemeteries. Of course, we cannot talk of medical or professional ethics here, because ethics exist in a calling. It seems our doctors today have lost that human touch that used to identify them and gave them the respect from society. How would the doctors feel when they go home to find a neighbour has died because there was no doctor to attend him/her at the hospital where the same doctor works? OK, the doctors can demand what they demand and I hope the government will give them what they want, or tell them why they cannot satisfy their demands.
They say you can force a horse to a river, but you cannot force it to drink the water. In this case the government cannot force the doctors back to hospitals, but even if they could, they cannot force them to treat patients. It needs a willing mind and a willing heart. So let the doctors take heart. But how did the strike come about? Some quarters believe that the strike has been triggered by the rise in the Parliamentarians’ allowances, which has been bombarded by condemnation after condemnations from civil servants, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), human rights groups and various institutions, public and private.
The Parliamentarians, late last year, proposed allowances increment from 70,000/- per day to 200,000/- per day on reasons of increased cost of living in the designated capital Dodoma, and the burden to effectively save their electorate in respective constituencies. What surprises me is that none of these organisations and the human rights groups, not even the media, has raised a voice against the heartlessness of the doctors’ strike.
Could there be some political undercurrents in the strike, just to spite the government of the day? At what cost? At whose benefit? The bottom line is that the doctors have made their point abundantly clear. It is time they went back to their duties to save lives, not to kill lives by denying them medical attention. People may despise them and their profession.