In the Holy Bible a story is recounted in 1Kings 3:16-28 about two young women who lived in the same house who each had an infant son, came to Solomon for a judgement.
One day, when they were asleep, one of the kids died. One of the women claimed that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman, however, denied this and so both women claimed to be the true mother of the living boy, saying the dead one belonged to the other.
So they went to King Solomon to settle the matter. After some deliberation, the king called for a sword to be brought before him.
He declared that there was only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Please, my lord, give her the live child—do not kill him!" However, the liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!"
Solomon instantly gave the live baby to the real mother, realising that the true mother's instincts were to protect her child while the liar revealed that she did not truly love the child.
The reputation of King Solomon greatly increased when the people of Israel heard about this wise judgment. There’s no doubt that Tanzania, as a nation, is currently in a serious health crisis involving two parties - the government and the doctors.
But the real victims of the stand-off, some of whom might end up paying with their lives before the crisis ebbs and is finally brought to an end, are the poor Tanzanians.
While we respect both the parties involved in the current stand-off, we would like to state clearly that the nation’s top leadership and that of the doctors should borrow a leaf from King Solomon’s display of wisdom.
What is needed now is not the application of mafia-like tactics to subdue the doctors into giving up on their claims or endless ultimatums by both the parties, but the application of wisdom in order to solve the current crisis. Wisdom, we are told, is the ability to use knowledge.
According to Wikipedia, wisdom is a deep understanding and realisation of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. Wisdom often requires the control of one's emotional reactions (the ‘passions’) so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one's actions.
As we wrote in our editorial published last February when a similar strike by the doctors was taking its toll on poor Tanzanians, both the parties – the doctors and the government - should allow wisdom to prevail in ending the current crisis.
In a country undergoing economic doldrums as ours is the ongoing doctors’ strike would be the last thing to be on anyone’s mind.
Hence the urgent need to let wisdom prevail instead of plunging the country into the abyss. Sacking the doctors will surely worsen the situation for, much as we may not like to publicly admit it, we need the doctors probably more than they need us, especially in view of the alarming doctor-patient ration in Tanzania.
It’s admirable to take emergency measures, but the government should bear in mind that it can’t possibly run the country by emergency measures or a series of strikes. Tanzania’s current health system is fragile, to say the least, as it faces a number of challenges, including overcrowding of patients in our dilapidated hospitals and an acute shortage of qualified health personnel.
Former Kenya’s Internal Security minister, the late Professor George Saitoti, once remarked, “There comes a time when a nation is more important than an individual.” The doctors and the government should understand that there comes a time when our nation, our people, are more important than an individual.
While we agree that our doctors need better pay and working conditions, what we can’t comprehend is a series of strikes at the expense of Tanzanians who have got little to do with the demands of the health personnel.
The state should understand that in this crisis it has got more at stake than the striking doctors. On the other hand, the doctors should make a realistic assessment of the country’s economic situation and gauge if their demands ate in tandem with the situation on the ground.
At the end of the day, the poor have to pay a heavy price because they can’t afford to go to private hospitals or go abroad for treatment. The very same poor Tanzanians who have literally now been abandoned to fend for their healthcare are the ones whose parents and relatives paid the taxes which funded the training of our doctors.
They therefore deserve a better health care in return, not endless strikes. This is the time when the nation is more important than a group of individuals. Let wisdom prevail!