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Three referral hospitals halt services

8th February 2012
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Executive Director with Legal & Human Right Centre (LHRC), Dr.Hellen Kijo Bisimba (L) flanked by her TAMWA counterpart Ananilea Nkya, (2ND-L) & other activist, makes a statement on the specialist doctors` strike at her office in Dar es Salaam yesterday. (Photo; Khalfan Said)

Services at three referral hospitals ground to a halt yesterday as a strike by specialist and other doctors continued to bite.

The hospitals are Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH), Mbeya Referral Hospital and Bugando Referral Hospital in Mwanza. Also similarly hit was Temeke Municipal Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

MNH Public Relations Officer Aminieli Aligaesha confirmed the reports, saying the situation has left many admitted patients in suspense - not knowing what step to take next.

The reports came only hours after National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda brushed off MPs’ suggestions that the House, now in ordinary session in Dodoma, discuss the fast-deteriorating situation at a number of public hospitals as a matter of urgency.

Aligaesha said MNH, the country’s leading referral hospital, had since yesterday stopped receiving outpatients “because there are just no services offered”.

The hospital management received a letter from specialised doctors earlier yesterday saying they had found it impossible to continue working without the assistance from their juniors.

“Yesterday the specialist doctors’ team submitted a letter to the MNH management informing it that the doctors were suspending emergency services at the hospital,” said Aligaesha.

He explained that very few “uncoordinated health services” were still offered at the hospital’s at the emergency unit only by a handful of volunteers, doctors from the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces and heads of department.

“The few patients left in the wards are attended to by the few volunteering medical staff,” he noted, adding that it was still extremely hard even to attend to all the patients still around.

“The number of patients reporting for treatment has dropped to 250 from 1,200 per day on average,” said Aligaesha.

Investigations by The Guardian have established that most beds in the MNH maternity ward were unoccupied.

Sofia Shabani (27), an expectant mother who has an appointment for surgery, said several women awaiting maternity care left after going for days without medical services.

The situation in the children’s ward was no better, with patients in the surgery section remaining unattended to for weeks.

Leticia Edward from Kigoma Region said: “No doctor has come to see, let alone attend to, my nine-month-old child since she was operated on in the hospital.”

Things were also in bad shape in the two other public hospitals, with reports saying doctors at Temeke Hospital have kept away from patients.

Most doctors at the Mbeya Referral Hospital were reported to be on strike. Nurses interviewed on condition of strict anonymity said the situation at the hospital is still bad as most doctors have not resumed work and some relatives have moved their sick relatives to other hospitals.

Bugando Referral Hospital Director General Dr Charles Majinge would not be drawn into commenting on the matter, only saying he was in Dar es Salaam to attend a meeting on the crisis.

National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda meanwhile yesterday played down suggestions by legislators seeking to press the House into discussing the drawn-out stand-off between the government and striking doctors.

Godfrey Zambi (Mbozi-North) had sought permission from the Speaker to move a motion under a certificate of urgency to ask the august House to suspend other normal business for the day and discuss the matter.

“We should suspend all other business and discuss this crisis... Our people are dying at Muhimbili. As representatives of the people, we have to do all we can to rescue the situation,” he argued.

“I would like to move a motion on this national emergency. I hope all MPs, regardless of their ideologies, will support me. It does not make sense for us to continue discussing other matters while people are dying in hospitals,” he added.

Quoting a report by a television station on the specialist doctors’ strike, he said the crisis called for immediate action by the House.

“I wonder why the government is dilly-dallying on the basic demands of the doctors,” the MP noted.

However, the Speaker ordered all MPs standing to support Zambi to ‘resume their seats.

 

She clarified that the House had already asked the government to give its position on the matter and members of a House committee was in Dar es Salaam working on the issue. 

 

A number of civil society organisations meanwhile yesterday called on the government to resolve the differences between it and the striking doctors in order to save the lives of people awaiting medical services.

They made the call at the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), where they held an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis triggered by the doctors’ strike.

Addressing journalists, LHRC executive director Dr Hellen Kijo-Bisimba said it was sad that the government and doctors had failed to agree a peaceful end to the crisis “for the good of the public”.

She added that a continuation of the situation would amount to a violation of basic human rights.

Tanzania Media Women Organisation (Tamwa) executive director Ananilea Nkya also urged the government and the doctors to move to resolve the crisis “to make the public disabuse themselves of the commonly held belief that prominent people care little about what is going on because they can access medical attention outside Tanzania.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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