Just a day after President Jakaya Kikwete’s call to doctors to ensure their recent strike is the last, they have declined to comment saying they are abiding by what they agreed with him last week.
Speaking over a telephone interview yesterday, the President of the Medical Association (MAT) Dr Namala Mkopi said: “We have no comment on his speech. We have already talked to him and reached a consensus”.
Dr Mkopi further said that the President was specifically delivering his message to Dar es Salaam elders and wasn’t directly addressing the doctors.
The Executive Director of Legal and Human Rights Centre, Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba, meanwhile said activists’ intentions were good “in trying to push the government to go back to the negotiation table with the doctors and end the strike”.
She said some people misunderstood them “owing to the nature of our work, but all wey did was intended to end the strike”.
She added: “We thank God the strike is over…the public should understand that we were not after popularity.”
Bisimba said even when the doctors resumed their strike early last week, activists wrote a letter to the President, calling for immediate measures to end the go-slow.
MAT called the latest strike on Wednesday last week after the government failed to respond to doctors’ demands among which they wanted Health and Social Welfare minister Dr Hadji Mponda and his deputy, Dr Lucy Nkya, to resign to pave the way for negotiations.
President Kikwete ended the strike after holding an extensive meeting with MAT leaders at which he told them he needed time to find a solution to their problems.
Announcing the decision to end strike the doctors said they have taken the decision to give President Kikwete time to solve their problems.
They also declared that Dr Mponda and Dr Nkya were their biggest enemies.
MAT Secretary General Rodrick Kabangila insisted that the doctors’ strike did not seek to make the public experience hardships in accessing medical services but rather it was intended to push the government to improve health services across the country.
In his address to Dar es Salaam elders on Monday, President Kikwete called for the formalisation of a system of running the health sector to minimise disputes.
“Better laws and regulations will guide any person who will be appointed to lead the ministry and therefore there will be no issue of who we like or dislike,” he said.
The president stressed the government commitment to find solutions to the doctors’ demands, but pointed out that the country’s laws prohibit public servants in the health sector (doctors and nurses) from striking.
In an effort to improve the sector, President Kikwete said the government has put in more budgetary resources, with health this year being ranked third in priorities with a budget of 1.2trn/-, compared to 2005 when it was ranked sixth.
Available statistics show that while in 2007 there were 1,013 students attending health colleges, the number has now jumped to 6,713.
The government target is to have 10,000 students in colleges by 2015.
By mid 2011 Tanzania had 4,649 medical doctors and 377 medical specialists but about 80 per cent of the specialists were at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam.