The Parliament is expected to discuss the doctors-government crisis following persistent pressure from the lawmakers to have the matter expressly resolved.
The Parliamentary Steering Committee met with the Parliamentary Committee on Social Services in Dodoma yesterday evening to discuss the findings of the latter committee tasked by the House to investigate the crisis.
No official communication was made public after the proceeding of the committees’ meetings, but after the question-and-answer session yesterday morning Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Job Ndugai accepted MPs’ call to have the crisis discussed by the House.
“The situation in the hospitals is getting worse because of the ongoing strike...the people will not understand us (MPs) if we continue to remain silent,” he told the House.
Ndugai, who is also the MP for Kongwa, was responding to a private motion moved by Peter Serukamba (Kigoma-Urban, CCM) to ask the House to discuss the doctors’ strike under certificate of emergency.
“Fellow legislators have been pushing the House Speaker to allow this crisis to be discussed...and, one more time, I wish to move the same motion, appealing to this august House to exhaustively discuss the crisis as an emergency issue,” Serukamba said.
According to the legislator, it sounds imprudent, for the MPs to continue discussing other matters and neglect people who are dying and suffering due to suspended hospital services.
After he had spoken, many MPs—both from the ruling and opposition parties stood up in support of him, who backed his motion with Parliamentary Rule No. 47.
Responding, Deputy National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai, admitted that the doctors’ strike was increasingly becoming a national disaster, saying the Parliament cannot remain silent about it.
He explained that although the Parliamentary Committee on Social Services was still working on the matter in Dar es Salaam, “concerns and arguments about the strike, repeatedly raised by MPs should not just be ignored.”
“This is the sixth legislator (Serukamba) pushing this House to discuss the doctors’ strike under certificate of emergency. As people’s representatives, we cannot remain silent any more...Tanzanians will fail to understand us if we don’t make our stand on this crisis before this House concludes its work on Friday,” Ndugai noted.
Even though, he said, before allowing the House to discuss the crisis, the Speaker’s Office would today (yesterday) seek advice from the Parliamentary Steering Committee, comprising all chairmen and vice-chairmen of the parliamentary committees—on the modalities of discussing the matter.
“I want (you) MPs to be patient...give us time to work on the matter—to consult the government-- on how we can go about it,” Ndugai said.
Going by the Deputy Speaker’s words, hopes are high that the Parliament may discuss the doctors’ strike, which has adversely paralysed health service delivery in the country’s hospitals leading to deaths of patients.
Responsible government organs are yet to give out specific figures on the deaths caused by the crisis, but the media reported yesterday that services at the country’s three referral hospitals had ground to a halt as the strike continued to bite.
The hospitals include Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), Mbeya Referral Hospital and Bugando Referral Hospital in Mwanza, and Temeke Municipal Hospital in Dar es Salaam.
Activists, members of the public and pressure groups, have repeatedly called on the doctors and the government to go back to the negotiation table in order to save lives.
In another development the Parliamentary Committee on Social Services yesterday visited Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) met with the Parliamentary Steering Committee in Dodoma yesterday after concluding its work.
The committee tasked to engage doctors and other health stakeholders in talks aimed at fizzling out the stand-off between the government and medical staff visited various medical facilities currently involved in the strike.
Led by its chairperson Margret Sitta, the committee visited, among other places, hospital wards, but did not make any comments to the media.
“Neither me nor any committee member is allowed to comment on the matter before we present our report Parliament,” Sitta said.
A survey done by The Guardian on the situation at MNH however has shown that there were virtually no services.
Few heads of departments were found at the Emergency Unit attending to only a small number of patients remaining in the hospital.
Many beds remained empty in the wards as patients after most patients had left to their homes or sought medical services in private hospitals.
Meanwhile, doctors at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) yesterday joined the strike blaming the government’s laxity resolving their demands.