Zimbabwe’s junior doctors who have been on strike since the beginning of this month say they are not students, Acting President Constantino Chiwenga was misinformed by Health Minister Obadiah Moyo and his deputy John Mangwiro.
Chiwenga yesterday read the riot act against the striking doctors ordering them to return to work by this weekend if they went into the profession to save lives.
“We will not entertain wrong things. The law does not allow that … Those that have withdrawn their labour may be they chose a wrong profession,” the Acting President said.
“If they found that they were on the wrong side and did not follow the law and they were for the people and they want to be doctors and want to care for the people they could have seen that what they are doing is wrong. We have taken other measures to handle the situation at our hospitals. They should have that sense of saving lives. That’s what we want to see …”
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which represents the striking doctors, today said Chiwenga was misinformed about the reality of the prevailing situation in the health sector.
“This act is a poor attempt at covering up their shortcomings in the ministry and running a smear campaign on the doctors. We intend to set the record straight so that members of the public are not misinformed by these individuals in the ministry of health seeking to gain mileage,” the doctors said.
“The junior doctors who initiated the strike and have been suspended are wholly qualified doctors who hold two Bachelor Degrees of Medicine and Surgery (MB and ChB) from accredited institutions and have graduated from university.
“They have undergone five and a half years of intense training including clinical rotations and are not under the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education as the ministry would like the Presidium and the public to believe.
“The government would not be stating that hospitals are at a standstill and chasing after them if these doctors were just students. Students do not treat patients and do not perform surgery on pregnant women, as this would be inhumane and illegal. Having gone through medical school, the Minister and his deputy should be fully aware of this.”
The doctors said it was not only junior doctors on strike. Middle level and senior doctors from central, provincial and district hospitals had also joined the strike as the ministry dragged its feet.
“No form of recruitment can replace the already low staffing levels, and stating that the situation is ‘normal’ is an untrue statement,” the doctors said.
“Instead of resolving grievances, the minister is trying to push constitutional amendments to prevent further strikes. This will enable him to sleep on the job as the health sector crumbles, like he has been doing when these grievances were raised in October and he turned a deaf ear.
“We are disappointed that the minister and his team continue to play politics with people’s lives instead of addressing the situation at hand. The minister, his deputy and the Health Services Board have failed dismally in their mandate to uphold our fellow countrymen’s health and workers safety.”
The doctors vowed to continue with the strike saying: “We hope the Presidium will find a lasting solution to the current impasse for the benefit of our nation. We are ready to offer our services once our grievances have been addressed. We urge the public to steer clear of propaganda and to pray for us as we try to restore sanity to our health sector.”