End the strike or quit, Kikwete tells doctors

Muhimbili Maternal ward
President Jakaya Kikwete has appealed to the striking doctors to halt what he described as “their inhuman boycott”, warning that those who will not heed his plea would be putting their jobs at risk.

“Patients are undergoing trying moments while some of are dying because of this illegal strike,” said the President in his monthly address to the nation last night.He advised doctors who seriously believe they can’t resume work unless the government offers fresh graduates a starting salary of Shs3.5 million as opposed to the current Sh900,000 to resign.

“Why should anyone insist that an employer pays them what the employer cannot afford?” the President posed, adding: “It’s better that you leave peacefully and get an employer who is ready to pay you what you want instead of causing trouble.”

However, activists and some politicians expressed dissatisfaction over the way the government was handling the crisis.

President Kikwete said: “They will lose their jobs and they won’t have anywhere to appeal to, they have no protection.”

He warned that interns were also endangering their prospects of ever getting employed, noting that if they too continued to participate in the strike, relevant authorities won’t confer them with the certificates they have toiled for. It takes four years to study for a bachelor’s degree in medicine as opposed to three required for most other fields.

Mr Kikwete assured the medics that the government was continuing with efforts to improve packages for public servants, including the doctors.

He gave a catalogue of measures that he said the government has taken to meet doctors’ demands, including improving on-call allowance, risk allowance and hostile working environment allowance.

He said the medics decided to go on a second strike while negotiations between them and the government, which had been necessitated by their earlier strike, were still in progress.

But activists and a number of politicians said in separate interviews with The Citizen that the government was not doing enough to resolve the health sector crisis the nation is currently experiencing in the wake of the doctors’ industrial action.

They also faulted the government’s proposed ways and means of alleviating the strike impact.
The government, through Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, last week told wananchi to use military hospitals as the strike in most of referral hospitals continued to bite. It also opted to recall retired doctors.

Mr Pinda further said the government would transfer some of the critically ill patients to private hospitals where it would cover their bills. He told the Parliament that the government has instructed the ministry of Health and Social Welfare to dispatch doctors serving in administrative positions to different hospitals to attend patients.

Critics yesterday faulted the government’s plan to avert the crisis, with most of asserting that it “was unrealistic and unworkable”. Mr Irenei Kiria, executive director of Sikika, an NGO dealing with a leaning towards health issues, blamed the government for “taking the situation lightly”.

“It’s trying to make the public believe that doctors are strikingfor selfish reasons while in truth they are doing so in a bid to have the entire health sector to be improved…they want modern medical equipment to be installed in our hospitals, they want sufficient medicines for our hospitals,” said Mr Kiria.

He added that the government has been sabotaging itself by refusing to face the truth. “The truth is that our doctors have been working in pathetic conditions, hospitals are in poor condition but the government has been using the court to prevent the doctors from pushing for genuine changes,” said he.

The Legal and Human Rights Center (LHRC) executive director, Dr Helen Kijo-Bisimba, echoed Mr Kiria, noting that instead of using diplomacy, the government has been using force in dealing with the doctors.

Dr Bisimba said by sacking the doctors in the face of inadequate health personnel, the government was not helping matters in any way. “The government must show modesty if it is really keen on reaching a consensus instead of talking of sacking the striking doctors,” said LHRC boss.

She argued that the decision to transfer Dr Ulimboka abroad for treatment after he was savagely beaten by unknown people was in itself a clear proof that Tanzania hospitals lacked modern medical equipment.

The Civic United Front (CUF) national chairman, Prof Ibrahim Lipumba said the only way out of the current crisis was for the government and the striking doctors to iron out their indifferences. 

“Using retired doctors, hiring foreigners or using the military – and to my knowledge Lugalo Hospital is the only significant military hospital – won’t help anything,” said the Prof, who advised that the government should resolve its differences with the doctors amicably.

He further called on the government to find a solution to what he termed as “the growing culture of strikes” which, he claimed, was tarnishing the government’s image in the eyes of the international community.

On the prospect of turning to traditional medicine men Dr Bisimba said although most of Tanzanians in rural areas have been relying on the traditional medicine anyway, but it would be reteating to history if most Tanzanians were to go that way in total.

Meanwhile, the management of the Muhimbili Orthopedic Institute (MOI) has issued an ultimatum of until today 9 o’clock to its doctors to resume work. The notice signed by one Prof Lawrence Maseru requires them to register their names with the MOI medical director.

“Those who will not have registered their names at the office of director of medical by 9am will automatically lose their employment,” read part of the notice.

Further reports indicated that the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) sacked 80 doctors over the weekend for downing their tools while Bugando Hospital in Mwanza suspended 47.
Source: The Citizen,http://www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Frank Kimboy,
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