30 June 2012

Tanzania: Dr. Ulimboka's Remarks Frustrate Probe, Police Say

Photo: Zachara Osanga/The Citizen
Interns attached to Muhimbili National Hospital (file photo): Tanzania's president cautioned striking interns that they may never qualify to become registered doctors.

THE Police Force on Friday conveyed its sincere best wishes to Dr Steven Ulimboka and wished him quick recovery, but said that his remarks discouraged their efforts in hunting for the culprits.

Dr Ulimboka was on Wednesday night kidnapped by unknown people who tortured and beat him before dumping him at Pande area on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.

The Commissioner of Operations in the Police Force, Paul Chagonja, highlighted achievements by the police force in fighting crime in the country. He urged Tanzanians to ignore claims which implicate the police force and the government in connection to the recent violent act on Dr Ulimboka, saying they are lies spread by ignorant people who do not know the actual story.

According to Commissioner Chagonja, the brutal acts committed against Dr Ulimboka are a clear indication that the police or the government could not be involved, because the acts were against the law. "For those who know methods used by the government in resolving conflicts, they will be witness to the fact that all these rumours are fabricated lies.

Neither the government nor the police can commit such atrocities against any of its citizen, even if that person has problems," he said. He said that the statement by Dr Ulimboka deters the police in hunting for the culprits, and to some extent it demoralizes them from taking action. "Dr Ulimboka still insists that one of our officers was involved in the violent act.

But we should all know that the police are not that stupid to send a person who was involved in such an act to investigate. "If that was the case, then I am sure another person would have been used far away from Dar es Salaam. We all wish him a quick recovery," he said.

Dr Ulimboka is the chairman of the steering committee of the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) spearheading the doctors' demands from the government. He is also the spokesperson for the striking doctors and has addressed the media on several occasions. Earlier, Dr Ulimboka vowed that the doctors' strike would continue after what he had described as Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda's continued blockage of communication.

The doctors also pressed the government to suspend top officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and it did so by suspending its Permanent Secretary Ms Nyoni and the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Deo Mutasiwa. Both are being investigated over corruption allegations levelled against them. President Jakaya Kikwete also removed the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hadji Mponda, and the Deputy Minister in the Ministry, Dr Lucy Nkya, in a cabinet reshuffle he made last May.

Last January an interim committee formed by medical professionals called for a nationwide strike over poor working conditions as well as lack of working tools and training of medical personnel. Meanwhile, reports from several parts of the country indicate that hospital services have been paralyzed as more doctors join the strike. A random survey by 'Daily News' in Dar es Salaam hospitals of the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), Mwananyamala, Ilala and Temeke revealed that services were at standstill.

Reports from Moshibased Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), Mwanza-based Bugando and Mbeya referral hospital say that medical professionals were still on strike. In another development, medical professionals currently on strike have been advised to attach importance to human life and resume duties while pushing for their demands. They should give innocent patients the right to live while the government strives to settle their demands.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Kelvin Nyomori who is a medical student in South Africa, also chairperson of the ruling CCM Branch in South Africa, said regardless of the legitimacy of the doctors' demands, devotion to the profession was vital. "It is true that the government promised to address the demands by the doctors. Perhaps fulfilment of the promise has come late but professionals need to be sympathetic and help prevent unnecessary deaths. Prove your loyalty," Nyomori pleaded.

Mr Nyomori spoke of the existing interdependence in the entire process of health services delivery process, saying that no one in the chain of action was more/less important than the other. "There is the diagnosis section with doctors who give prescription to a patient. You have Laboratory technicians who conduct tests; there are radiologists (X-ray department), physiotherapists, nurses, dentists and others. The boycott by medical doctors, therefore, has affected the entire process," he said.

Last Friday, the chairman of the caretaker committee of the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT), Dr Ulimboka Stephen, informed the doctors did not wish for people's suffering but wanted to learn from the government about the desire to address their demands progressively.

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