Firing doctors: Cutting your nose off to spite the face

Editorial Comment

While the rest of the country was still wondering what the government was thinking when it fired 77 doctors working at public hospitals which now resemble ghost buildings, it went ahead and dismissed 134 more, bringing the total to 211.

The Health Services Board has continued with its disciplinary hearings, meaning more heads will be chopped. If the move was meant to frighten the doctors into cowering back to work, it’s not working. The situation at the public health institutions meanwhile is getting desperate.

But the doctors’ case is simple: they want a decent salary and an enabling work environment. None of them want to work with substandard tools which would do more harm than good. Everyone knows the hospitals have no medication, no equipment and the doctors are overworked as well as underpaid.

It is not a surprise that two months ago they simply could not report for duty anymore. As prices spiralled out of control their meagre salaries could not sustain them. It’s the story of every civil servant, every Zimbabwean worker really.

The many meetings and deliberations have yielded nothing and instead the government has resorted to the old trick of threats, and if we believe the story of Peter Magombeyi, the leader of the doctors’ union, abductions! For standing up for what is his right, he is now nursing wounds in a foreign country.

We have watched as government runs around spinning all sorts of stories which do not address the fact that hospitals have become death traps instead of life-saving institutions.

So firing doctors is the government’s brilliant solution? This administration’s command approach to basic issues is short-sighted and taking the country nowhere fast. The arrogance is staggering and reflects a leadership devoid of the skills required or that is so insecure it feels the only way to command respect is through fear and militarising institutions. Surely we can do better than that.

It made sad reading this week that a young woman gave birth right at the gate of a clinic. What a waste of life and the buck stops with the Health minister and his principals.

Instead of seeing the ghosts of foreigners in the doctors’ grievances, how about paying them a decent salary and the chefs stop the non-stop flying on luxury jets?

The full extent and the magnitude of the crisis may never be accounted for but what is pretty obvious is that people are dying because their government is failing them every day.

Government’s firing of doctors is like one cutting off their nose to spite the face.