EDITORIAL COMMENT : Doctors must rethink service to profession, country

Yesterday, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZDHA) issued a statement in which it announced that it was pulling out of the Health Apex Council, ostensibly because the body had failed to represent the interests of doctors.

In the same statement, the doctors touted that they were continuing industrial action beyond the 34th day yesterday in an apparent show of intransigence.

On both these scores we do not have problems with the doctors, in principle.

The doctors, just like other employment groups and indeed citizens, enjoy freedom of association and indeed the right to collective bargaining and trade unionism, which means creating, and being part of platforms that address their concerns and welfare as workers.

In this case, they interface, within their rights with the employer, who is the Government of Zimbabwe.

What is worrying, however, is the cynicism in the move by the doctors.

It does not take much to realise that the doctors’ announcement of the pull-out from the Health Apex Council, which they tout rather childishly as Apexit, is meant to break the unity within the profession and to mark the doctors out of a collective decision, likely that of coalescing on the national interest and the interest of the broad Hippocratic profession and its clients.

There could be some genuine reasons for this, but also it doesn’t take a genius to see mischief-making and politicking, which has become the bane of the state of labour in this country.

There is a problem when genuine labour issues become mucked and bogged down in politics. The conflation is most unfortunate.

Even more unfortunate is the situation whereby critical sectors of society hold the country at ransom because of parochial interests.

It is worse in the case of our doctors who appear to think that they are special, and more special than other health workers.

On the other hand, the issue of the long-drawn- out strike needs to be addressed.

The industrial action by health workers, going into the 35th day has gone for too long.

The workers claim that they are “incapacitated”, which is a euphemism of refusal to do work until certain conditions are met.

By now it must be clear to all stakeholders that the country is at a difficult position economically.

The concessions that Government has made of up to 60 percent increment on health professionals’ salaries deserve to be acknowledged.

The truth is that given the buffeting difficulties in the economy, Government is severely curtailed.

Not least, the current economic thrust of austerity amid structural changes requires everyone to play a part and to bear the pain that comes with reforms.

No one is having it easy. That is the truth here and wherever the bitter medicine of austerity has been applied. We need to brace for these conditions.

With our education and indeed the explanations that have been proffered by the country’s leadership, we need to appreciate the message and be psychologically prepared while at the same time make the necessary sacrifices.

It is a passing phase.

As for the doctors and other workers of this country, let us rethink service and commitment to serving the country.

Endless strikes and other counter-productive actions will only delay the intended results of the present reform measures.

On the other hand, we urge Government to be more diligent and creative in finding ways to ameliorate the suffering of the people by enhancing measures such as non-monetary incentives, housing, food, health, transport and other necessities.

Already, a number of interventions have been made since March.

There is need to broaden and deepen measures that protect the most vulnerable of our society while protecting the dignity of workers and their families.

It is to be hoped that prosperity will be ushered soon from the ashes of austerity, and no delays are acceptable than are necessary for the good of the nation.

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