Doctors serving in the public health sector were yesterday divided over their strike as even those who reported for work resolved to adopt a go-slow strategy.
The situation disrupted provision of health services to patients yesterday to some extent, especially in some major hospitals such as the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC), Bugando Referral Hospital and Muhimbili National Hospital ( MNH).
But a survey conducted by this paper at the municipal hospitals of Temeke, Mwananyamala and Amana in Dar es Salaam region, and Sekou Toure in Mwanza region, showed that most doctors and nurses were discharging their responsibilities as required by attending to both out-patients and in-patients.
The survey revealed a split among doctors over the strike as those reached for comment said it was useless for them to participate in the industrial action because they believed the authorities were working on their demands.
A doctor at Temeke municipal hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in an interview that it was not right for them to go on strike, describing the action as against human rights.
He said at their last meeting with fellow doctors at the hospital they had agreed not to strike and instead should continue providing services to patients, saying most of them were their relatives.
He noted further that the call for them to strike was for the benefit of senior medical officers who were using the loophole to entice others to join in the strike with a view to have their demands fulfilled expeditiously.
“Look here, I am not happy when I see people dying without a good cause and yet I am there to their lives. What do I gain if people die?” he queried, insisting that it was nonsensical to engage in the strike.
However, a survey carried out at Amana municipal hospital showed that only assistant medical officers and clinical assistants were at work attending to patients while doctors were absent.
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity from within the hospital said that medical doctors were not on duty, but would not account for their absence. But a general outlook at the scene indicated that their absence had something to do with the strike.
When asked to comment on the situation at the hospital, a cross-section of out-patients noted that they had received treatment as usual, with some expressing amazement whether there was a strike or whether one was looming, to take effect probably today.
Suzana, who was carrying a child strapped on her back, said she had received medical treatment as usual without any fuss and wondered if there was a strike by the doctors.
The situation at Mwananyamala hospital in Kinondoni municipality was also normal, the survey showed. Out-patients were found seated in single file, entering the doctor’s room for consultation in turns.
However, things were quite different at Muhimbili National Hospital, as no doctors were seen around.
Contacted for comment, leader of the Medical Association Dr. Steven Ulimboka, who on Friday confirmed that the strike would have commenced yesterday, said the strike had officially started as the emergency unit at the hospital had been stopped from receiving patients with effect from today. He noted further that the court order that their strike was illegal was none of their concern.
A few in-patients who were interviewed said they had been treated in the wards and were attended by the nurses on duty. Investigations by this paper showed that the treatment dispensed was in fact part of their specified doses which they would have received even if the doctors were not around.
A midwife nurse on duty who preferred anonymity said it was impossible to see doctors yesterday in the precinct of the hospital as most of them were off duty. She said most of them would be on duty tomorrow.
She would not be drawn into commenting on the doctors’ strike, saying that since she was only a nurse she wouldn’t know the goings-on of something which did not concern her.
The doctors’ current strike is a continuation of one which started late last year which was sparked by interns’ demands at Muhimbili National Hospital for a pay rise.
The government on Friday issued a statement calling on the doctors not to stage a strike because it was working on their outstanding demands.
Minister for Health and Social Welfare Dr. Hussein Mwinyi (pictured) issued the plea in Parliament. From Moshi Salome Kitomari reports that doctors at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre (KCMC) joined their fellow medical practitioners in the industrial action.
The Guardian on Sunday visited the hospital yesterday morning to assess the state of service provision, only to find that only a few doctors were working while others had downed tools.
In-patients who spoke to this paper yesterday said an announcement was made at midnight on Saturday asking patients who were rather better to be discharged as services could be halted from midnight.
“They passed in our ward at about midnight telling us that doctors would down tools from Saturday, which later proved to be correct, for until I was discharged this morning the doctors were not working,” said Aisha Msuya.
Unconfirmed reports had it that the KCMC management held a meeting with specialist doctors pleading with them not to participate in the strike.
Speaking over the phone to the Guardian on Sunday yesterday, chairman of Association of Doctors Dr Steven Ulimboka said their strike was there to stay as the government was yet to address their demands.
“The government should look for us and not for us to go looking for the government for negotiation. We submitted our demands but the government snubbed us. The state of our hospitals is bad as they have no medicines and medical equipment but when they (leaders) fall sick they are flown abroad for treatment,” he said.
A doctor who preferred anonymity said he downed tools since midnight on Saturday, adding that a few doctors at the hospital were still going on with work.
From Mwanza Correspondent Nashon Kennedy reports that intern doctors serving at Bugando Referral Hospital officially embarked on the strike yesterday, vowing to go on with the strike until the government worked on their demands.
“As you can see for yourself, nothing is going on here. We are quite aware of the suffering and pain that the strike causes to our brothers and sisters out there, but we have no other option,” he said.
The situation at Mwanza regional hospital, Sekou Toure, however was normal as both nurses and doctors were found discharging their responsibilities.