Doctors’ strike a ticking time bomb

Faith-Zaba.jpg

Faith Zaba

THE doctors’ strike for the past two weeks is yet another blot on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, exposing government’s skewed priorities.

Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
fzaba@zimind.co.zw

Doctors went on strike on March 1 after government failed to heed their 21-day ultimatum to address a number of their demands.

As the stand-off between government and doctors escalates, major hospitals such as the United Bulawayo Hospitals, Mpilo, Harare Central and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals were turning away desperate patients, with reports of an increase in the number of preventable deaths as a result.

Doctors’ grievances include government’s failure to review their on-call allowances, poor working conditions and lack of essential drugs, as well as use of obsolete equipment. This is a litmus test to the Mnangagwa government’s mantra that it is no longer business as usual. While the President could be commended for the hyped interest by foreign investors to start businesses in Zimbabwe, he however needs to spearhead the country’s socio-economic revival efforts.

That this is happening after government splurged millions of dollars on a fleet of Isuzu vehicles for chiefs at a time hospitals are depleted of basic medicine such as painkillers, glucometers, blood pressure monitors, nebuliser machines, gloves and thermometers reflects badly on government’s lack of priorities. It has dampened the euphoria that accompanied Mnangagwa’s inauguration following a military intervention that toppled former president Robert Mugabe from power. Hope sprang eternal after Mnangagwa declared that a new era had dawned, where service delivery would be integral, while also promising a divorce from the dross associated with the Mugabe epoch.

The US$6,7 million used to buy the 226 double cabs in October 2017 for traditional leaders could have resourced national referral and district hospitals. Mnangagwa distributed 52 of the cars in January this year. Just one of the vehicles, which costs an average US$30 000, could have bought 769 glucometers and 600 BP monitors for the referral, provincial and district hospitals, some of which do not have such machines, forcing junior doctors to fork out money from their paltry US$329 salaries to buy one or two machines to provide services. To imagine that patients have been turned away or sent to Parirenyatwa because the BP monitors or glucometers at Harare Central hospital are not working when millions of dollars are being used to buy cars is just unacceptable. Many district hospitals do not have the essential basic equipment.

Undoubtedly, Mugabe decimated the country’s health delivery system, but disgruntled citizens expect reconstruction. Urgently dealing with the doctors’ demands and ensuring that state health institutions cease to be death traps is what Mnangagwa needs to do. The strike is catastrophic and has paralysed operations at the state-run health institutions.

As what the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said yesterday: “What is more worrying is that for the past 15 years or so, doctors have been striking almost every year without their issues being addressed. The strikes have become an annual event, and the government has been failing to find a lasting solution”. The strike is a ticking time bomb.

Unless government intervenes, numerous lives will be lost.

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