President Jakaya Kikwete yesterday told doctors in the country that their recent strike should be the last, calling for formalisation of a system to govern the running of the health sector to minimise disputes.
He said the main lesson learnt from the strike was the lack of trust between the two sides and therefore the need for laws and regulations which will be applied by any leader who took charge of the ministry.
President Kikwete made the remarks in his address to Dar es Salaam elders yesterday. The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, Vice President Dr Gharib Mohamed Bilal, government officials and religious leaders.
“Better laws and regulations will guide any person who will be appointed to lead the ministry and therefore there will be no issues of who we like or dislike,” he said.
He said the strike should be the last because when they laid down tools it cost lives of human beings and even their professional ethics prohibited them from striking.
He said the country’s laws also prohibit public servants in the health sector (doctors and nurses) from striking, adding that the government is ready for further negotiations in order to find solutions to the doctors’ demands.
He said in other countries doctors are normally held responsible and even taken to court if patients die during a strike.
Kikwete warned that doctors should not put forward difficult conditions during negotiations with the government, adding: “We don’t have an express response to the doctors’ salary demand.”
He said the government does not have direct answers to the demands, although it intends to work on them.
Elaborating, he said the amount of salary increase requested by the doctors is too high and would push inflation to over 50 percent from the current 19 percent. He said providing the doctors with between 7.0m/- and 17m/- salary would force the government to print extra money, thereby fueling inflation.
He said the current salary of 957,700/- per month is a 100 per cent increment from the previous payment of 400,000/- per month.
Kikwete said apart from salary increment, doctors demand to be paid 30 percent of their salary as risk allowance, 40 percent for working under difficult condition, 10 percent for emergency and 30 percent of their salary for house allowance.
He said they also want 10 percent of their salary as transport allowance or to be provided with loans to purchase vehicles.
The president said in a bid to improve the health sector, the government has embarked on a programme to build 700 doctors’ houses countrywide. He said that every district would have 18 houses.
He said the ministry of health and social welfare had already submitted to the treasury a request for doctors allowance increment and that the government was working on it.
“We are determined to improve the health sector…we are now providing subsidy to private colleges and universities. The government has also issued funds for expansion of Bugando and KCMC hospitals aiming at increasing the number of graduates”, he noted.
On improvement of the sector, he said the government has put in more budgetary resources, with the sector this year being ranked third in priorities with a budget of 1.2trn/-, compared to 2005 when it was ranked sixth.
The president also blamed activists’ saying they did not fight for human rights, but took advantage of the strike to gain popularity. He said the activist should have played their part by convincing the doctors to go back to work in order to save life.
MAT called the latest strike on Wednesday last week after the government failed to respond to doctors’ demand to sack minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr Hadji Mponda and his deputy Lucy Nkya.
President Kikwete intervened to end 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.