The death of Robert Mugabe has taken the nation’s focus away from very pressing issues, among them the strike by doctors at public hospitals.
Doctors went on strike almost two weeks ago after failing to reach an agreement on a salary increase with the government.
The second strike this year has seen only students and some junior doctors attending to patients at major hospitals across the country.
Last month the government offered the doctors a 60% salary increase, which they found a pittance and it was rejected.
The Health Services Board last week offered to increase allowances for doctors by $360.
Again this was rejected because the medical practitioners want their salaries and allowances to be pegged agaist the prevailing interbank market rate for the local currency.
The government has shown no urgency at all in addressing the doctors’ grievances.
Instead the authorities responded by tabling plans to introduce a draconian law, which if passed, will see doctors being banned from going on strike.
The reasons given by doctors for going on strike are genuine and they need to be attended to by government as a matter of urgency.
Zimbabwe has witnessed an astonishing increase in the rate of inflation since the government started rolling out currency reforms.
The decision to end dollarisation in January only added fuel to the fire.
Prices of basic commodities, medicines and drugs as well as other essentials have gone up more than 10 times yet salaries for most workers have remained stagnant.
The government’s pursuit of so-called austerity measures has left many state employees “incapacitated” and this includes doctors.
While it is important to note that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government inherited a health delivery system that was already on its knees, it is worrying that nothing much has been
done to ensure that things are done differently.
The welfare of health workers seems a peripheral issue for the administration, hence the persistent strikes by doctors and nurses.
Hundreds continue to die needlessly at public hospitals and yet the government does not seem to consider the situation a priority.
It is a tragedy that the government has no problems splashing on Mugabe’s burial arrangements, but pleads poverty when it comes to a matter of life and death such as the
unavailability of doctors at public hospitals where the majority of the population gets treatment.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo and his team need to get their act together and make sure a lasting solution is found to stop the unending strikes.