Charles Mabhena

The impasse between Zimbabwean doctors and the government is now costing human lives

Sources who spoke to ZimNews recently said people are losing their lives as there is no one to attend to the sick, as the strike by Junior and senior doctors continues.

Human rights groups have called on both parties to speedily resolve the current standoff and save the lives of innocent patients. Junior doctors at state hospitals embarked on an industrial action two weeks ago before senior doctors and consultants joined in the strike.

“We lost our grandmother at ……(Hospital named). When we booked her at the hospital she spent three days and was not attended to until we lost her,” said the source.

She remonstrated,“If doctors are not attending to patients. Where should we go to with our health problems?”

Itai Rusike executive director of Community Working Group of Health says access to health and health services is a fundamental right that should be put forward in any dispute and conflict.

“Denying patients’ health services can be read as a denial to this right,” says Rusike who is also coordinator of the African Platform for Universal Health Coverage.

He says it is the citizens of Zimbabwe that continue to bear the brunt of a compromised health delivery system.

“Are these not the same citizens that pay taxes to government so that it can pay its workers, including doctors? Does the constitution not guarantee health as a basic right for all citizens? And who is to blame?” asks Rusike.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA)  who are at the center of the strike  argues that  the government should honour its pledge to address doctors’ grievances from the 2014 strike, reconsider its announcement on post-internship employment, and that government  put in place a mechanism for doctors to import vehicles for their work under a subsidized or relaxed duty regime.

Edgar Munatsi, the President of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) says the government has reneged on the welfare of the doctors.

In 2014, doctors embarked on a strike which among other things sought government to review their on-call allowances. In 2014 government agreed to review these but up to now has not taken any action on this, over two years later.

Over the years, government has been expanding its intake of trainee doctors but just recently announced that it would not offer all trained doctors employment in government hospitals though it is reluctant as well to release their open practising certificates to allow them to look for employment elsewhere.

Citing the tight fiscal space, government has also been unable to buy vehicles for doctors to do their work and is refusing to allow doctors to import vehicles for them under a subsidized or relaxed duty arrangement which government agreed to in 2014.  The working conditions of most doctors in government hospitals are deplorable.