The poor continued to bear the brunt of the ongoing doctors’ strike as health services in major hospitals in the country worsened despite government intervention to recall retired doctors as well as redeploying military doctors to various hospitals.
In another development, chairperson of the Doctors Association, Dr Stephen Ulimboka, who was kidnapped and brutally tortured earlier in the week, was yesterday flown to Johannesburg, South Africa, for further treatment.
On Friday afternoon specialist doctors treating Dr Ulimboka, in a press briefing about his condition, said arrangements were underway to fly him to Nairobi.
Speculation was rife at the airport yesterday about Dr Ulimboka’s destination as some reports had it that he was being flown to South Africa while others said that he was probably being taken to Nairobi.
Security mounted by the doctors themselves was tight at Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI) at around midday yesterday as plans to take him to Julius Nyerere International Airport were in an advanced stage.
All the gates leading to MOI were closed, leaving access to doctors only. Reporters and photographers were also barred from accessing the area, making it difficult for media personnel to discharge their responsibilities
It was at around 12.30 pm that an AAR ambulance took Dr Ulimboka from MOI’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to the airport. However, police and intelligence officers in plain clothes were seen loitering around the airport for reasons best known to themselves.
At the airport the ambulance carrying Dr Ulimboka was allowed to enter through Gate No 1 formerly used by VIPs, again making it difficult for the media to discharge their duties.
Human rights activists carrying placards also thronged the gate, with security officers trying to exercise control.
Dr Edwin Chitage briefly spoke to reporters at the airport, saying that after a panel of specialist doctors thoroughly examined Dr Ulimboka, it was established that he had sustained severe injuries on his chest, head, lungs and legs. Reports also stated that Dr Ulimboka suffered brain concussion.
While it was business as usual for the rich as well as top government officials who can afford to foot medical bills at private hospitals in and outside the country, to the poor it was pain and anguish as many failed to access affordable health services.
According to a survey conducted by The Guardian on Sunday in Dar es salaam, Mbeya, Mwanza and Moshi, health services were in shambles as doctors and specialist doctors continued with their strike in demand for better working conditions and salaries.
But it was a blessing in disguise for private hospitals, which recorded a high number of patients as many could not go to public hospitals because they had halted offering services following the strike.
Dr Chitage repeated his call, urging the government to assure doctors of security following the illegal arrest, kidnapping and torture of their leader, Dr Ulimboka.
A survey conducted at Muhimbili National Hospital and MOI showed no patients arriving at the two national heath facilities for treatment. At MOI only security guards could be seen.
Some patients were being removed from their wards at MNH due to lack of health services.
As for Temeke Municipal Hospital, a doctor who preferred anonymity said no more patients were arriving at the health facility.
Aga Khan Hospital continued receiving patients yesterday while Hindu Mandal Hospital was forced to turn away patients, saying it was overwhelmed by the huge number of patients.
Reports from Moshi say a total of 80 intern doctors who were practicing at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre ( KCMC) have been dismissed.
According to a letter written on Friday to the medical interns, the medical practitioners were given twenty hours from Friday to vacate the hospital premises.
Speaking to the Guardian on Sunday, the medical interns said they were instructed to report to the Health and Social Welfare permanent secretary. “The strike still stands,” they said.
They said the question of allowances was negotiable. However, they insisted that improving conditions in public hospitals was of paramount importance.
“One may be tempted to think that it may be more painful for people to die at this moment of the strike than those who die in our hands due to shortage of medical equipment,” they said.
They said the government did not see any importance in improving the provision of health services in public hospitals simply because government officials and their families were normally flown abroad for treatment whenever they fell sick.
As doctors were preparing to go on strike at Bugando Hospital in Mwanza, the management forbade journalists from accessing information.
Specialist doctors at the hospital are alleged to have announced their strike after having been overwhelmed by regular duties of serving patients.
When this reporter went to the hospital yesterday to seek clarification on the looming strike by doctors he was prevented by security guards at the gate, who had been instructed by hospital director Dr Charles Majige not to let in any journalist.
“We cannot allow you to enter, as your fellows from Star TV have been prevented from entering the compound,” a security guard said.
However, reports from the hospital yesterday morning said that many medical services at the hospital had been suspended.
Specialist doctors at the hospital convened a meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss the situation.