The impasse between junior doctors whose strike entered day 22 today and Government, cannot be allowed to continue. Government says it has met some of the doctors’ demands but doctors are insisting that Government is yet to meet their demands hence they are continuing with the strike.
In a statement Government said the doctors’ on-call allowance has been reviewed upwards by 50 percent and the payment of outstanding locum claims started last month. It also said night duty allowance has been reviewed upwards by 50 percent and Standby/Call Out allowance has also been reviewed upwards by 50 percent.
The Government said it has re-introduced a Post Basic Allowance for nursing staff who acquire approved additional qualifications up to a maximum of two qualifications and has also introduced Nurse Management Allowance for nurse managers in recognition of added clinical responsibilities.
A vehicle revolving fund of $10 million has been availed to provide loans for those doctors intending to buy cars. The Government said it disbursed $22 million from the Health Levy Fund last December to boost stocks of medicines and medical sundries at Government hospitals.
The doctors are saying they cannot return to work to just stare and watch patients suffering and dying as a result of shortage of drugs and other essentials.
They say the situation has not improved at Government hospitals and as such they do not want to hoodwink citizens into believing that the hospitals are fully operational by returning to work.
What is clear is that Government is yet to engage the striking doctors. We appreciate the Government’s reponse to the demands of doctors and what it has offered so far but what is important is for the two parties to engage in order to agree on the way forward.
Doctors, we want to believe, appreciate Government’s efforts in growing the economy in order to benefit not only the health sector but all sectors.
Government should be able to convince the doctors on what it is capable of paying at the moment given the many competing priorities that include the health sector where, as rightly noted by doctors, hospitals need to have adequate drugs and other essentials. Government has already started addressing some of the health staff’s grievances and doctors should appreciate this.
It will be totally unreasonable for doctors to want all their grievances addressed at once given the level of performance of our economy. Many civil servants are not being paid what is commensurate with their profession and the work they are doing because of the limited resources at Government’s disposal and the health workers cannot be an exception.
We want to once again implore Government to engage the doctors so that they understand why it might take long to address some of their grievances while at the same time prioritising the provision of drugs and other essentials to enable the doctors to do their work.
What is comforting is that our doctors are saying they are concerned about the welfare of their patients and we want them to practically demonstrate this by resuming work as soon as possible. Let reason prevail over selfishness as we all strive to turn around the economy so that together we enjoy the benefits.