Doctors, nurses need to vote

HARARE - Health practitioners will today meet the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to discuss ways in which they can exercise their voting rights in the 2018 general election while on duty.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZNA) and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights and other health professional associations will be part of the talks.

Nurses and doctors are under essential services, the same category with the army and the police, and they are absolutely right to demand that voting privileges enjoyed by the uniformed forces be extended to them.

Amendments in Section 22A of the Electoral Act introduced the polling station-based voters’ roll. With the polling station-based voters’ roll, one can only vote at one specific polling station where his or her name appears in the voters’ roll unless where exceptions apply like those being demanded by nurses and doctors.

Because the health professionals will be on duty during voting day, and given that the Zec is coming up with the new polling station voters’ roll, and some health professionals will be deployed to work in areas far from their ward, there must be a special mechanism to ensure that they exercise their franchise rights without hindrance.

It is against the backdrop of challenges that blighted the 2013 vote, that Zec must adopt a voting methodology that will ensure inclusivity, accuracy, comprehensiveness and completeness.

Some doctors and nurses may simply be too busy and, without protected time from work, can’t get to the voting booth.

Some may feel that caring for patients fulfils their sense of social purpose, making other forms of civic participation, like voting, seem less important.

We are glad the health professionals are asserting their rights without prodding from anyone.

One positive sign is that more physicians are now running for office, we have medical doctors in Parliament, in Cabinet.

Regardless of party affiliation, more politically active physicians could add an important voice to our political and social discussions. Health care currently accounts for a meagre share of the economy.

Fifteen years after the government pledged in the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 percent of its annual budget to healthcare by 2015, it is dismally failing to meet this goal.

The critical health sector got a mere 6,8 percent of the $4,1 billion 2017 National Budget. Zimbabweans, increasingly sceptical of and disenchanted with politics, still seem to trust doctors and nurses.

Doctors and nurses need to get more involved in politics.

Their responsibilities to patients, policy, and the public extend beyond clinics and hospitals. Of course they can’t all volunteer, donate, advocate, or run for office. But at the very least, they must vote.

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