Zimbabwe: Doctors Must Put Country Before Self

11 December 2019

News that doctors have started trooping back to work is encouraging.

By Monday, 80 doctors had reported for duty while another 282 were reportedly seriously considering to follow suit.

We encourage them to act boldly and resume their duties in the national interest.

The impasse between doctors and the Health Services Board (HSB) has been long drawn out. It is a dispute where there can possibly be no winner. Everyone loses out.

Those that have studied the history of withdrawal of labour know that strikes are only effective as a threat. Once carried out, they rarely produce the desired results.

In the case of the strike by doctors, it is the patients that have suffered. We recall stories of expectant mothers who had to be helped by a midwife in Mbare under very unhygienic conditions because Harare City Council nurses had gone on strike at a time when the hospitals were dysfunctional.

There were also stories of overcrowded and oversubscribed mission hospitals like Karanda Mission, where patients had to sleep on the floor, waiting to be attended to. And there were stories of families that had to take their sick relatives to neighbouring countries just to get medical attention.

The question is: Should this doctor's strike have been this long? Couldn't the disputants find each other and meet halfway? We have said from the onset that the doctors' complaints are justified. Their conditions of service need improvement. But this cannot happen overnight.

The whole country has been going through austerity. Even if the Government wanted to remunerate them better, it does not have the capacity to do so.

The doctors know that. The Government, through the HSB, and through other negotiating platforms for civil servants, has been transparent about its financial position and what it is able to pay. Again, the doctors have been favoured with the relevant information.

This then begs the question: Why have they taken such a hard stance? Is this coming from their hearts or lack of appreciation of what their country is going through? Or they have become unwitting vessels of forces that are pursuing other agendas that have nothing to do with them?

There are a lot of suspicious characters around the striking doctors, the likes of Doug Coltart, who always show up whenever there is movement to oppose the Government.

We are convinced that the young doctors have become pawns in a political game that is beyond their comprehension.

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