Public hospital doctors strike

Maternal ward number 39, Muhimbili National Hospital
MEDICAL doctors in public hospitals have decided to down tools starting on Monday to pressure the government to address longstanding issues  facing the medical fraternity, particularly poor working conditions.

The doctors made the resolution on Monday in Dar es Salaam after a day-long meeting held at the Don Bosco Youth Centre and attended by some 200 health practitioners. 

"We are announcing a strike for all medical doctors. We are suspending all services to patients to press for our rights; we will stop the industrial action once the government  solves our  problems," said Dr Ulimboka Stephen, who chaired the meeting.

But the government had repeatedly said  it was ready for dialogue with the doctors  and cautioned them against any professional misconduct, including staging a strike. The medical practitioners have been holding meetings since Wednesday last week under the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT).

The doctors were to meet with the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Lucy Nkya, on Thursday last week but the meeting flopped in the eleventh hour, as each party insisted on holding the meeting on a venue it had arranged.  

In a move that appeared to distance the professional body from the industrial action, yesterday afternoon the medical practitioners resolved to close the MAT meeting and resolved to hold a different meeting which eventually came up with the decision of a strike.

The meeting had four agenda on the table namely; poor working conditions facing the medical fraternity and poor services rendered to patients due to unfriendly facilities in most public hospitals countrywide. 

Others were reinstatement of 194 intern doctors at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) who  were transferred to other hospitals in the city and  action against officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare whom the doctors claimed had been issuing demeaning statements to the health practitioners. 
"The meeting resolved after a heated debate that all the 194 intern doctors that had recently been transferred from MNH should be reinstated unconditionally. They also want a risk allowance of 30 per cent of their salaries. This is due to risks they are exposed to when performing their duties," Dr Ulimboka said:

"The government's Standing Orders of 1994 stipulate among other things that medical doctors should be provided with accommodation or housing allowance of 30 per cent of their salaries. The situation on the ground is however, different."

According to Dr Ulimboka, the doctors are also pressing the government to provide health insurance to all health workers through the  'green card' cover of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

"We also want our salaries to be increased to match the rising  cost of living. On call allowances (paid to doctors on night shifts) should be increased from 10,000/- to half per diem of a respective region, according to the Standing Orders," he said.

The health workers are also asking the government to provide them with loans to acquire motor vehicles or transport allowance of 30 per cent of their salaries.

The genesis of the standoff between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare ensued when the ministry transferred  194 medical interns at MNH after they downed tools demanding two-month allowance arrears.
Source: Daily News, reported by Alvar Mwakyusa
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