7 January 2013

Mozambique: Doctors' Strike Begins, Hospitals Continue Working

Photo: The Star/ Monicah Mwangi
Medical workers (file photo).

Maputo — The Mozambican Medical Association (AMM), which claims to represents the country's doctors, announced on Monday morning that the strike it has declared, in pursuit of higher wages for doctors, is under way across the country – but AMM spokesperson Paulo Gudo declined to give any figures on how many doctors have joined the strike.

Asked about the legality of the strike, Gudo also refused to comment. "I would not like to discuss questions about legality", he told reporters, "since the Association has its own legal office, and so it is not up to me to respond to this issue".

The Ministry of Health has declared that the strike is illegal because the AMM is a socio-professional organisation rather than a trade union, and trade unions are the only bodies entitled to call strikes. Furthermore, no legislation on the right to strike within the public administration (which includes the national health service) has yet been passed.

Paulo Gudo was also unable to say how long the strike would last. At the appropriate moment, he said, the AMM leadership would inform the public as to whether or not it would suspend the strike. For the moment, all Gudo could say was that the strike is under way throughout the country.

The AMM has promised that doctors will ensure that the strike does not prejudice the emergency services – including the intensive care units and the maternity wards. Urgent surgical operations will go ahead, but routine ones will be postponed.

However, the reports reaching AIM from across the country suggest that only a minority of doctors have joined the strike, and that most of the major hospitals are working more or less normally.

Domingos Diogo, clinical director of the country's largest health unit, Maputo Central Hospital (HCM), guaranteed that patient care would not suffer, even if some doctors do not turn up for work. Nonetheless, the strike has clealy disrupted in-patient and out-patient consultations. These normally end at 12.00 or 13.00, but Diogo they will now continue until 16.00 because of the strike.

Diogo gave no figures for the numbers of doctors who had not come in to work, but promised an exhaustive survey that would provide the real figure.

He pointed out that not all absences were necessarily due to the strike.

None of the doctors at the nearby Maputo Military Hospital have joined the strike, and this hospital took the initiative to send its own doctors to cover the gap left by strikers at the HCM out-patient consultations.

Diogo deplored the attempt by the AMM to prevent medical students from doing their normal apprenticeships in the hospital. They were students, not doctors, he stressed, and should be allowed to complete their training.

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