Solve doctors' grievances ASAP

HARARE - President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has reportedly been forced to cut his vacation short due to the worsening health crisis, needs to address the doctors’ grievances immediately.

Zimbabweans are dying and suffering because of the continuing unavailability of doctors and for that reason Mnangagwa and his government need to bring to finality the crisis that is threatening to bring the country’s health system to its knees.

On-and-off talks over the past years have failed to produce a binding agreement between government and the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association which is representing the striking junior doctors.

The point of departure is for Mnangagwa’s government to genuinely demonstrate that it is committed to addressing their grievances. 

The manner in which Acting President Constantino Chiwenga has handled the matter left a lot to be desired.  The grievances by junior doctors such as sub-standard conditions, including poor working conditions, low salaries and shortages of basic medicines and equipment are valid.

It is important to restate that the doctors’ grievances have not suddenly been brought to attention of government.

They have been on the table for several decades and most Zimbabweans were hopeful that Mnangagwa’s so-called new dispensation would make our health situation a priority.

For instance, the lack of drugs, medicines and appropriate equipment has been a recurrent problem over the past 20 years but no solution has been put in place. 

While Mnangagwa’s immediate return from his vacation to deal with the crisis is, on the surface, laudable, it is disturbing that the government is now employing dirty tactics to solve this impasse.

The ban of demonstrations at hospitals does not in any way solve this crisis; all it does is to further complicate matters. 

The government’s desperate attempt to link the doctors’ grievances and industrial action to oppositional politics should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

They must also realise that the doctors’ industrial action is a tip of the iceberg. The rest of the civil service is equally disgruntled by poor working conditions and 
economic challenges that have rendered their salaries worthless.

Admittedly, at this point in time the government might not have the capacity to pay in US dollars but we are sure that if the government genuinely demonstrates to the doctors its commitment to resolve the impasse and puts on the table reasonable alternatives, the doctors can return to their work stations.

Government must also realise that the health workforce is one of the building blocks of a functioning public health system and prosperous economy.


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