By Robert Tapfumaneyi
INSTEAD of threatening to fire striking doctors government must expend no effort in finding solution to the country’s health crisis, senior health medical personnel at government hospitals have said.
In a statement Tuesday the doctors painted a dark picture at the country’s public health institutions with some clinical programmes discontinued due to unavailability of equipment, drugs and laboratory support.
“We are ready to negotiate to resolve the current crisis and find a lasting solution to the deteriorating standards in the public health sector,” the statement by Senior Doctors Hospital Doctors Association said in part.
“We find threats of disciplinary action as unfortunate and are clear signs of negotiating in bad faith, doctors at all levels are being made to watch patients die from avoidable conditions and work in unsafe environments.”
Health Minister Obadiah Moyo on Friday issued an ultimatum to health professionals who have been on industrial action for over a month to return to their positions by Monday or face the music. The junior doctors however ignored the threat forcing government to seek the intervention of the Labour Court that was expected to rule Tuesday.
While authorities have called on the doctors to respect their oath of office, the medical practitioners said the same also called upon them to make sure whatever they do does not result in the harm of patients.
“The oft-mentioned Hippocratic oath states that doctors ought to never give dangerous services, ‘first no harm’, we remain incapacitated to deliver safe and effective care to our patients.
“However, we continue to be available to engage in meaningful dialogue for a speedy and long term resolution to this crisis in the interest of our patients, the communities and the profession,” said the statement.
The senior doctors pointed to obsolete equipment, dilapidated infrastructures, shortages of medicines and other essential drugs as issues that have led to incapacitation.
“Life span of procured equipment is often reduced due to lack of service contracts, specialist doctors have along struggled to continue offering quality service under these conditions,” the senior doctors said.
“Harare Hospital neonatal unit (NNU), for instance has inadequate number of incubators, erratic heating, no oxygen blenders, not enough equipment to monitor babies, the unit is also overcrowded and unhygienic.”
Key maternity wards the statement said had turned into death traps.
“The equipment received from ministry for this unit included a theater table with a maximum weight of 60kg which is inappropriate for use for most of Zimbabwean pregnant women,” said the statement.
“There is erratic water supply in theaters, inadequate supply of cleaning and disinfectant materials making preparation for surgery unsafe.”
“There are inadequate surgical consumable such as appropriate suture materials resulting in surgeons having to improvise.”
The senior doctors joined the strike late September.