Wed, 14 Dec 2016 11:04:13 +0000
The decision by doctors to go on strike with immediate effect is pure blackmail and intended to exact political pressure for a very selfish and unpatriotic cause.
The haste with which this strike has been called exhibits a deliberate political ploy. There’s every reason to believe that this strike was supposed to coincide with the absence of the President Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu who was supposed to have been in Egypt on a state visit.
Thankfully he did not travel, therefore no aspersions can be cast to suggest that the President was on tour outside the country while doctors from the largest referral hospital in the country were on strike.
It is worthy of note that never before have doctors gone on strike without providing ample notice to alert the government and the public in general of their intentions and therefore, prepare the minds of the people for this eventuality
This time a meeting of doctors was held on Monday December 12 and a statement issued on December 13 for a sit in protest to commence on December 14. Curiously an urgent meeting has been called for today at 08.00 am at the doctors’ canteen to discuss this matter.
What does this mean if indeed a decision of such drastic action was unanimous as the public is being made to believe.
Four reasons have been given for the sit in namely; unpaid sitting in allowances and salary arrears; incomplete and all non-payment of student stipends; deplorable state of doctors on call rooms and ablution blocks at UTH and finally salary discrepancy between Junior and Senior resident medical officers.
To crown it all, the doctors want the salary increments and a 24-percent fuel allowance for salary to be effected.
In a letter addressed to the acting senior medical superintendent at UTH, the doctors have given an ultimatum that the strike will continue for 10-working days after which the members will reconvene to chart the way forward if the issues are not resolved suggesting that the strike could indeed continue.
There is no indication whatsoever that any effort has been taken to canvass the matter with authorities outside the University Teaching Hospital when it is a very well-known fact that the Ministry of Health and ultimately government have direct responsibility for this institution.
The temerity of this action is truly baffling and appears to be copycat of the strike currently taking place in Kenya. The difference being that doctors in Kenya are on strike because the government has failed to implement a 2013 agreement to increase salaries and improve conditions under which doctors operate.
The Kenyan government has had 3 years in which to consider the various demands made by doctors and find ways in which these can be resolved.
In contrast our doctors have given this government 3 days in which to consider, source for funds and implement their wide ranging demands.
This is ridiculous.
It is an abuse of status and especially professional standing in society because the victims of this action are the hapless patients and tax payers who will be left without medical care in the hospital.
There is no indication that government as the employer has refused to meet the demands that doctors are making. If anything Parliament is debating budgetary allocations for all government ministries including the University Teaching Hospital.
Therefore, any outgoings for 2017 can only come from what is approved by Parliament.
Whereas the demands by the medics may bear merit the manner in which they are being pushed suggests anything than a collective call for improved conditions.
All industrial actions of whatever genre take a very clear path which ultimately ends on a round table between the employer and the employee or as indeed the Kenyan case has gone the High Court has declared the strike illegal and government has refused to negotiate while the strike continues.
Labour relations court Judge Helen Wasilwa has ruled the strike illegal and has threatened not to hear the doctors case until the Industrial action is called off. She has directed that parties in the case must appear before her court on 19th December.
Therefore the strike which kicked off on December 5 has continued and is likely to do so until the parties come together.
Is this what our resident doctors at UTH want? A prolonged sit in protest over issues that can be discussed and resolved over a round table without putting the lives of patients at risk.
We have no doubt that given an opportunity the Minister of Health Dr. Chilufya will be able to resolve outstanding matters through normal channels.
In the least we expect that the doctors must give government at least a month of warning before taking such drastic action. This shotgun approach is mere politics and should be condemned.