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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Doctors` strike was mishandled

29th January 2012
Editorial cartoon

After denials of the Ministry of Health that dominated the media in the past few weeks, finally the doctors went on strike to demand better pay as well as fair working conditions.

From early last month the local media including the Guardian on Sunday reported extensively about the looming doctors’ strike, but still as usual, the government through the Ministry of Health, strongly denied the news by simply saying, “They (Minister and Permanent Secretary) were not aware.”

The Minister for Health Dr Haji Mponda, and the Permanent Secretary Blandina Nyoni insisted that they were not aware of the doctors’ demands. According to them, they were also reading or hearing the so-called doctors’ demands through the media.

 They claimed that they don’t rely on media reports to manage the Ministry’s affairs, adding that they have not been contacted officially by the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) about the unsolved doctors’ demands.

They simply didn’t get  a clear picture of what was happening and yet they are the Ministry’s top executives. Just by failure to know earlier that there was a looming doctors’ strike is enough proof that there’s a communication breakdown between the Ministry and doctors.

While the Ministry’s top executives refused to act on media reports because it’s against the government’s ‘modus operandi’, behind the scenes they were dispatching public relations officers to some radio stations to spin out better versions of the same story.

These PROs told the public that there wasn’t any strike as reported by the media. They went ahead with a weak defense case accusing local journalists of ‘manufacturing’ the strike to sell their newspapers.

Just one day after these PROs were hosted by a popular radio station, Clouds  FM in which they strongly denied that there was any looming doctors’ strike, the truth prevailed and silenced their shameless lies.

Doctors are on strike; patients are suffering and some of them have lost their lives. Finally the Ministry and the entire government are awake, and they are now pretending to sort out the current health crisis caused by the ongoing doctors’ strike.

 It’s appalling to see that we still have these kinds of government officials running the Ministry of Health. They should resign for mishandling the current crisis right from the beginning.

There was enough time to engage doctors to avoid the current crisis, but because of the bossy and egoistic behaviour of some top officials at the Ministry of Health, things were left to fall apart.

These officials behave like a monitor lizard, which according to an African proverb it doesn’t listen until it bleeds in its ears. They didn’t want to listen until it was bleeding.

Doctors are human beings, but sometimes they have been treated like beasts of burden in terms of payment, living and working conditions. But above their demands, they wanted audience with the Ministry as well as assurance on when their agonies will be ended.

Their agonies are known because it has been a thorny issue for decades now, though the Ministry’s top executives pretended to be oblivious of the same.

These doctors are Tanzanians and therefore if they were approached fairly and properly, this country wouldn’t have been in the current health crisis.

They have relatives, parents, children and friends in this country, and therefore they would have understood the situation if the Ministry’s top executives would have chosen to address their demands on time.

That’s why we strongly say that the doctors’ strike was mishandled from the very beginning. The doctors’ cry was simply ignored at the expense of the lives of hundreds of patients and their families – some of them grieving already.

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