Doctors' strike bites in Zimbabwe

Wednesday March 13 2019

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


A strike by Zimbabwean medical workers entered the second day Wednesday with senior doctors saying they would be only attending to “dire emergencies until the situation normalises”.

The health workers downed their tools on Tuesday demanding improvements in the provision of consumables and equipment at hospitals.

In December last year, junior doctors went on strike for over a month before they were persuaded to resume work by their seniors, who said the government was committed to addressing their grievances.

However, the senior doctors were now saying the government was negotiating in bad faith as nothing had changed since last year’s strike.

The doctors said “the currently available resources might not be able to sustain the emergency service provision beyond the end of the month”.

Now even worse


“The situation with regards to medical consumables and equipment is now even worse than it was in December 2018,” the doctors said in a letter to the government.

“This has continued to cause severe compromise in the safety and working conditions of staff and a reduced capacity to deliver services to patients.”

Zimbabwe’s once vibrant health delivery system has collapsed in the last two decades, largely due to an economic crisis that is blamed on brain drain and lack of medicines and equipment.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised an overhaul of the health sector after he took over from long time ruler Robert Mugabe following a military coup in 2017, but doctor said the situation was getting worse.

They said the new government had not fulfilled promises it made following the previous strike by junior doctors.

Elective cases

“We feel that these compounding factors have compromised patient care, putting patients’ health and lives at risk at the very institution, which is supposed to restore health and life,” the doctors said.

“We have tried to make adjustments to no avail,” the doctors added.

“Statistics show that for January and February this year, we have operated less than 20 percent of the elective cases that we were doing in the same period in 2018.

Patients with simple conditions like appendicitis and diabetic foot ulcers were going for days without antibiotics, leading to complications, the doctors said.

President Mnangagwa has struggled to turn around Zimbabwe’s economy due to the country’s continued isolation by Western countries.