THE strike by junior doctors at government hospitals has virtually left patients stranded.
Patients suffering from serious ailments are being made to wait for several hours before they are attended to in hospitals across the country.
Services at Bulawayo’s top referral hospitals, Mpilo Central and United Bulawayo Hospitals, have been impacted negatively by the strike.
The junior doctors are demanding that their salaries be reviewed from the current $282 to a minimum of $1 200 per month, excluding allowances.
They are also demanding free accommodation in government-owned flats. Doctors also want a risk allowance for handling cases such as HIV and Aids, and Tubercolosis because of the deteriorating conditions they work under in public health institutions.
Their umbrella body — the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association — accuses the government of ignoring their grievances for far too long resulting in the industrial action. On the other hand, the government has accused the doctors of going on strike “without exhausting the existing mechanisms for dialogue”.
However, this is not the time to pontificate on who is right or wrong.
There is no debate that public health institutions are mired in a deep crisis. Hospitals suffer perennial staff shortages and a lack of equipment as well as essential drugs.
The working conditions for health workers is far from ideal and this has spawned a brain drain that has crippled the health institutions further. Remaining doctors are risking their lives to save lives and the government should be proactive in addressing their grievances.
Their patience should be applauded while the hypocritical position taken by the government that it was caught unaware by the strike must be dismissed with contempt. Public posturing will not assist to end the impasse with the doctors and it is high time the authorities showed some commitment in ending the strike before lives are lost on a big scale.
The government and the doctors should quickly get to the negotiating table in the interest of the suffering patients.