The strike by doctors that has paralysed the health delivery system, especially in Bulawayo and Harare, is an apt reminder that despite pronouncements that it is no longer business as usual for government, nothing has really changed.
Doctors went on strike on March 1 after the government seemingly ignored a 21-day ultimatum to address a number of their demands.
For almost two weeks, there was no evidence of urgency in the way the government was handling the strike.
According to the Zimbabwe Medical Association, on day seven of the strike the team from the Health and Childcare ministry that has been negotiating with the doctors asked that the talks be suspended for a week.
As the stand-off between the government and doctors continued, major hospitals such as the United Bulawayo Hospitals, Mpilo and Parirenyatwa were turning away desperate patients.
There were reports of deaths after patients waited for days to be attended to by doctors.
The delays in addressing the doctors’ demands are difficult to understand in light of the fact that there is nothing new about the issues that led to the job boycott.
Some of the doctors’ grievances include the government’s failure to review their on-call allowances, poor working conditions and lack of essential drugs as well as equipment.
Four years ago, the government made several promises to the doctors after yet another crippling job action, but the authorities never kept their side of the bargain.
Zimbabwe’s health delivery system is already stretched because of a critical shortage of medical personnel, drugs and equipment.
The downing of tools by doctors also comes at a time when the country is facing outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and cholera.
If the job boycott continues, more deaths would be recorded at our health institutions.
Therefore, it is high time that the government took the matter seriously and give doctors the respect they deserve.
The fact that strikes by health workers have become a yearly phenomenon shows that the authorities have been ignoring the issues causing disaffection in its workforce.
Health and Childcare minister David Parirenyatwa must show leadership and convince his peers in government that improving the welfare of health workers is a priority.
On top of the new government’s shopping list were luxury cars for traditional leaders and there was nothing for workers in critical sectors such as health.
Doctors and nurses have endured years of neglect by the government and it is our belief that if Mnangagwa’s administration is committing itself to doing things differently, their welfare must be a priority.
The government must, as a matter of urgency, realign its priorities. It can no longer be business as usual.