At the weekend, we carried a heart-rending story of people being turned away from public hospitals, as the impasse between the government and doctors continues unabated.
How the situation got this far beggars belief, as the authorities ought to do everything within their power to avoid medical practitioners’ strikes.
This is not to say doctors and nurses should hold the government hostage, but rather there should be scope for negotiations such that there should be no strike.
The government last year committed to improving doctors’ conditions of service and there should be an explanation why there are still outstanding issues.
In the national budget, for example, there was an increased allocation for the Health ministry and there should be an explanation why the government did not honour commitments it made in the past.
While authorities may downplay the strike, the reality is that the majority of its victims are poor people and the elderly, who are in the majority, and who use public hospitals.
These people suffer the double whammy of being poor and being the victims of a strike that is not of their own doing.
Thus, the government has to show some empathy and engage doctors, so that a lasting solution is found and there is no reason to engage perennially in strikes.
The doctors’ strike is the result of the government failing to prioritise the health sector and instead spend on trinkets and other such unnecessary issues.
For instance, the budget – alluded to earlier on – fails to meet the Abuja Declaration’s demand that nations should spend at least 15% of their budget on health.
This is an indictment on the government that it is failing to put its money, where its mouth is.
Had the government met the dictates of the Abuja Declaration, there can be no doubt that strikes and medicine shortages would be a thing of the past.
Failure by the government to stick to commitments it has made is the very reason why doctors went on strike and Zimbabweans are denied their right to health.
We, thus, plead with the government to do all within its powers to end the strike and ensure that health is available for all.
Talks between the government and doctors should centre on how the authorities intend to ensure that the health workers are paid their worth, while at the same making sure that hospitals are fully stocked with drugs and other incidentals.