19 September 2012

Tanzania: Medical Association Rebuffs 'Repentant' Intern Doctors

THE fate of about 300 intern medical doctors who had their provisional licences suspended for taking part in a strike in June, this year, will be determined by the Medical Council of Tanganyika (MCT) and not otherwise.

This is despite a plea for leniency by some of the intern doctors on Monday, this week, led by one Dr Paul Swakala, who said that they regretted their actions which caused sufferings and losses to many people. He claimed to represent more than 200 interns.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, the MCT's Chairperson, Dr Donan Mmbando, said that it is only the council that can determine the fate of the intern doctors at this stage. "It is not long before the MCT starts questioning the interns. We will deal with individuals and not a group of people," Dr Mmbando, also the Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said.

And yet in a twist of events, the Medical Doctors Steering Committee denounced the 'plea for leniency' advanced by the intern doctors on Monday, branding them as 'a small group of people whose intention was not known to them.' "The statement issued by some of the interns is not the position of the Steering Committee.

We understand that there is no room for leniency at this time and thus we are waiting for the decision to be made by the MCT," the Secretary of the Steering Committee, Dr Edwin Chitage, said. Dr Chitage was addressing a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday, flanked by the Steering Committee's Vice- Chairperson, Dr Godbless Charles and the Representative of Interns in the Committee, Dr Frank Kagoro.

On his part, Dr Mmbando was categorical that nothing could be determined at present unless the MCT sat, questioned the interns and decided on the way forward. "This process should be completed as provided by the law. At the end there are those who could be forgiven while others might be penalized depending on their participation in the strike," Dr Mmbando said.

Speaking earlier in a telephone interview with 'Daily News', the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Seif Suleiman Rashid, hailed the intern doctors who had asked for forgiveness for taking part in the strike. "They have done something patriotic and they deserve to be congratulated.

I, however, urge them to formally forward their request to the government," the soft-spoken deputy minister said. He also noted that since the matter was of 'legal and professional matter,' the MCT was the only body that could deal with it at this stage. "It is imperative that MCT deals with the matter according to law and determine any professional and ethical flaws," he explained.

On the other hand, the Medical Doctors Steering Committee was of the view that intern doctors are not to blame for the strike and hence they should not be held responsible. "Provisional licences clearly state that they would be under supervision of specialist doctors and thus any malpractice would be responsibility of the latter," according to Dr Chitega.

While urging MCT to start calling the interns for questioning, he said the Steering Committee would ensure it provides legal counsel for all interns who would be called at the MCT. Medical doctors across the country downed their tools in June, this year, to demand the government address their grievances such as low pay and poor working environment.

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