How many deaths will move government and doctors’ hearts?

By Precious Shumba

Most doctors are on strike claiming that they are incapacitated. How about their surgeries and private practices? The majority poor people do not have the money to go to private health centres for medical attention. The doctors appear to be digging in and not prepared an inch to even engage the Government. The Government has made several offers, which the doctors have turned down without sometimes even considering them. Maybe it is time for government  to seriously  reconsider what to offer to the doctors. I have gone to the Harare and Parirenyatwa Hospitals to just check on how patients and nurses were coping. The situation is very sad.
Now, the issue is about human life and well-being on both ends, the patients and the health staff. What should come first in the attempts to find a sustainable solution? Is it about the patients?Or is it about the doctors’ interests coming first? Or is it about the Government’s ability to strike a balance between the doctors¬† and the welfare and well-being of the patients? Those in poor health would die without medical attention. The nurses and some doctors have sacrificed to give attention to the sick and ill, despite the shortages of drugs, equipment and financial resources to keep them going.
My major worry is; will the Doctors remain on strike, and let the sick die because their grievances have not been attended to? How many deaths will move their hearts to come back to serve the people who they went to school for. Do no harm to the patients. The negotiations between the Doctors and the Government should focus on sustainable health service delivery, and not playing catch with inflation. As it stands, any increase in salaries and allowances for the Doctors will not change their lives. But the sick will be dying because of lack of medical care.
At the height of Gukurahundi, Joshua Nkomo (MHSRIP)sacrificed his needs and rights and surrendered himself in order to save the people who were being killed by Government forces. A Unity Accord came. Thousands of lives had been lost. ON 22 June 2008, five days before the run-off election day, and at the peak of human rights violations and murders of MDC supporters, Morgan Tsvangirai (MHSRIP) withdrew from the election, leaving Zanu PF to contest alone on 27 June 2008. In September 2008, the MDCs and Zanu PF signed a Global Peace Agreement which led to the establishment of the Government of National Unity in February 2009. All these events point to leaders settling their disputes on the deaths of innocent people.
Will the Doctors first witness the deaths of thousands of patients in order to realise that their battle with the Government is a moral battle requiring sacrifice and respect for human life. Are they going to walk on top of dead bodies to claim victory over the Government? The longer their strike and number of deaths, the less the chances of them retaining the support of the citizens. The Government will continue to issue statements justifying their positions, and the doctors will also continue to act with bravado, all the time people dying in hospitals. A non-monetary incentive like building decent houses for the Doctors across the country, among other options is something to put on the table.
Finally, President Emmerson Mnangagwa should stop his numerous foreign travels on a private jet which could be his, and make more money available to the health sector in Zimbabwe. History will judge Mnangagwa as the most insensitive President in Zimbabwe for allowing his arrogance to cloud his moral judgement. The sick and the Doctors are Zimbabweans, and he is the President. He should humble himself and become more human in his handling of the health sector challenges. Hospitals have become death traps, and it should no longer be business as usual.
Precious Shumba is a journalist and civil society activist.He writes in his personal capacity