The situation in public hospitals is dire.
While doctors may be genuine in their appeal for better remuneration and living conditions, they should consider their Hippocratic Oath and the plight of those fighting for dear lives in hospital.
Nobody just wakes up one day and decide that they want to be admitted into a health facility.
People go to hospital because they are seeking a lifesaving service. Therefore, it’s painful to go to hospitals and find that those who have been trained to assist and attend to the sick are not available for nobody knows how long.
I was at the Mpilo Central Hospital Pediatric Section during this week and I saw a few doctors who had responded to the call of their conscience and come to check on the ailing babies. Hope was written on the faces of the mothers, and they seemed to be very fond of these few junior doctors, who despite the hard economic conditions felt compelled to live up to their oath and put the lives of patients first.
Of course, the doctors did their rounds, and left, however not without instructing nurses to call if there were emergencies or pressing matters. May these medical practitioners be blessed in abundance for putting the lives of patients, probably total strangers before their own. There is still hope for humanity, after all.
Many heart-rending stories in recent weeks of patients waiting in vain for treatment at local public clinics and hospitals have been told.
Some have turned up at health facilities with serious injuries but because there are no doctors to attend to them due to the ongoing strike, the patients have been forced to return to their homes with their septic wounds.
There is a genuine possibility that many lives are being lost because of lack of treatment. The few, more fortunate and better-resourced ones have had to turn to private health centres to pay huge sums of money for treatment as doctors at Government clinics and hospitals continue with their job action, one of the many they have embarked on over the past 10 months.
There is profound concern about this recurring labour instability in the health sector and the resultant unnecessary suffering of patients.
The Government, through the Health Service Board (HSB) has shown its concern too by engaging in salary negotiations with the striking doctors.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo has repeatedly appealed to doctors to consider the plight of patients and resume duties.
He applauded the crop of doctors who did not heed the strike call and opted to stay at work while salary talks were ongoing.
“Government is grateful to those doctors who remained on their posts of duty delivering care, saving lives and alleviating suffering,” said the minister.
It is no secret that the economy is underperforming, resulting in the Government fighting hard to balance the competing demands using limited resources.
For instance, the drought during the 2018/19 season left hundreds of thousands of people food insecure, thus in need of food aid. The Government has had to spend much money feeding them and the 2019/20 summer agricultural season upon us, the Government is mobilising resources to be able to secure inputs for millions of villagers who lack resources to buy them alone. There are many more pressing obligations apart from the foregoing that the Government is attending to.
This is not to say that the grievances of the striking doctors are not valid. However, all actions should be guided by the context in which they are operating in. Understanding the conditions of our existence as Zimbabweans will go a long way in ensuring that we are all united in the fight against poverty and rebuilding our country, for all of us to see the better days that are just ahead.
The health ministry said Government remains open to dialogue with striking doctors to find a lasting solution, but those discussions should be carried out while health workers are at work, because patients are at the receiving end and are suffering, like the grass suffers when the bulls fight.
Doctors downed tools more than 50 days ago citing incapacitation and indicated they would only resume their duties after Government has acceded to their demand for United States dollar-interbank rated salaries.
This means that public hospitals have been operating for over 50 days without most doctors and such a situation means that our hospitals are in a crisis.
The health sector has been left in disarray yet someone’s child, wife, husband, mother father is languishing in hospital, with hope kindling that they will be assisted, they will heal and they will go home with their health restored. Within the next week, if they do not return to work, doctors would have clocked two months away from work stations and my heart goes to those that have had to be in hospital during this time.
I can only imagine the pain in the families who have lost loved ones as a result of them not being treated in hospitals because doctors were just not there.