Govt priorities warped: Doctors

HARARE - Doctors have accused government of ignoring their welfare while instead opting to push for the Public Health Amendment Bill.

During a Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR)-organised discussion between parliamentarians and medical practitioners last week, doctors argued their welfare must come first.

This comes as the on-going doctors’ strike has reached nearly one week, with the medical practitioners demanding better working conditions, duty-free cars and a salary increment.

“Parliamentarians are silent over medical care providers taking over service delivery and this is impoverishing doctors and nurses resulting in brain drain. This has also resulted in doctors going on strike,” Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association official said.

“The doctors’ strike is more urgent than legislators running around amending a law. Parliamentarians should humble themselves and address the plight of the doctors first because people who are dying are actually our relatives. But because we are turning a blind eye on them and addressing 1924 issues the strike will continue,” he said.

They argued desperate doctors were forced to leave the country, which was negatively affecting service delivery at public hospitals.

“Our parliamentarians are ignorant and show an eye to false issues. When it matters the most you hear that government has no money but before you know it, parliamentarians are flown out of the country using money we don’t know where it comes from. Can government be serious about the welfare of healthcare providers first before anything else,” the official said.

Samson Gurupira, a doctor, said as MPs push for the adoption of the Bill, they must include provision of alternative sourcing of funds.

He argued that while doctors are on strike, there were donors that were reportedly prepared to pay the demands but were blocked by Health minister David Parirenyatwa and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“These donors were stopped because the money they wanted to give was deemed too much and now they resolved to give us $30 and that is almost an insult to us.

“The minister should understand that if there are donors who want to pay us they should be allowed. He should not try to politicise the situation,” Gurupira said.

Another doctor identified as Tendai said only when government officials send their children to local hospitals will they start appreciating the plight of doctors.

He said the minister is never present in Parliament to lobby for the health sector to be allocated the 15 percent budget disbursement approved by the Abuja Declaration.

“Let government ministers be treated in the country’s local clinics and hospitals. Only then will they understand the demands that we are making. For them our plight is foreign because they do not know what happens in public hospitals.

“Why would they be concerned when they get better treatment elsewhere, while we have to scrounge around for basic drugs to treat people,” he said.

“The Abuja Declaration which we are signatory to is very clear on what the health sector should get. We should not be fighting to get what is ours from the National Budget.”

However, chairperson of the health thematic committee, Senator David Chimhini, said it was not the role of Parliament to disburse funds or come up with a budget.

He said it was up to Treasury to source the funds then legislators would debate and lobby to have it increased to reasonable amounts.

“We are very worried about doctors on strike but our role is to go to Parliament and ask the minister why the doctors are on strike and why he is failing to comply with his obligations.

“Our role is to represent. When the minister says he does not have sufficient money, we will tell him to prioritise healthcare first rather than other issues. We are fighting together with doctors,” he said.

Among some of the doctors complaints is the poor allowances they get, with $16 monthly rural allowance and $1,50 for on-call allowances.

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