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Patients paying a heavy price

the reporter

A month into a strike by doctors at the country’s public hospitals, the government does not seem bothered by the havoc the job boycott is causing on ordinary Zimbabweans.

More than 500 junior doctors stopped reporting for work early last month after the government refused to bow down to their demands for a salary review.

The government was only prepared to give the doctors a 60% salary increment, which was viewed as an insult by the health practitioners in light of the runaway inflation.

Doctors also want the government to replenish equipment and ensure the availability of medicines at hospitals.

Senior doctors joined the strike last Thursday and their grievances are not dissimilar from their subordinates.

Since September 3 when the doctors’ strike began, thousands of sick people have been turned away from public hospitals.

Only a few Zimbabweans can afford the fees charged by private health institutions, hence the majority is facing diminishing treatment options.

The government’s only meaningful response to the strike so far has been to threaten to withhold the salaries of striking doctors.

However, a similar strike that stretched for over a month early this year showed that threats will not achieve anything.

The government has to start showing that it has people’s interests at heart by engaging in sincere dialogue with the doctors, who have legitimate grievances.

Salaries for government workers have been eroded by inflation and the employer has been struggling to keep pace.

Doctors have not been spared.

Some of the promises the government made early this year when it persuaded the doctors to return to work have not been fulfilled.

This has seen the striking doctors hardening their stance in negotiations because trust was broken.

The heavy-handed response by the authorities, which has seen police preventing doctors from demonstrating as a way of attracting attention to the plight, has only made the situation worse.

Last month’s alleged abduction and torture of Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association acting president Peter Magombeyi was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

Therefore, the government has to invest in rebuilding that trust by engaging in honest dialogue with the doctors to end the impasse.

This has to be done in the interest of ordinary people who are failing to access treatment.

Some are dying needlessly because the state is neglecting its duty to ensure access to health for every Zimbabwean.

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