In an article titled, “Health is politics on a grand scale,” Boston University’s Dr Sandro Galea makes a bold statement that the Obamacare fever that gripped the United States for about a decade “is one very small piece of a larger picture”.
The larger picture, Dr Galea urges, is that health is inextricably linked to politics, “on a large scale”.
Improving the quality of care provided by the Zimbabwean healthcare system is most definitely politics on a grand scale.
No one wants to trade places with Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, the man who said “I landed in cholera” after being appointed in September 2018.
Dr Moyo has been kept on his toes by long-standing and emerging problems in the country’s health sector.
In September, Dr Moyo cut short his trip to the United Nations General Assembly to attend to concerns of health workers.
Unfortunately for Dr Moyo, those concerns seem to never end. The past few weeks in particular, have been a nightmare for the minister.
Junior doctors who have been on strike for over 60 days were discharged from public service after they were found guilty of absenting themselves from work for at least five consecutive days.
As of Wednesday, 77 out of 80 doctors who were scheduled for disciplinary hearings had been discharged.
On Monday, nurses at council clinics, who also claimed incapacitation as a result of eroded salaries, went on strike.
As we reported on Wednesday, expecting mothers from different suburbs in Harare have been shuttling from one clinic to another in search of functioning maternity facilities.
Mothers use council clinics for maternity services and child care.
And the bad news just kept coming.
On Tuesday, the Association of Health Care Funders of Zimbabwe announced a considerable increase in monthly contributions in a bid to contain huge co-payments and shortfalls emanating from charges demanded by service providers, mainly in the private sector.
To his credit, Dr Moyo has been working hard to restore quality services in the health sector. The man has tried to address concerns raised by medical practitioners on the availability of medicines and consumables.
He has also tried to look into the remuneration of health professionals within the confines of tight fiscal space.
Dr Moyo has also been firm. The disciplinary hearings for junior doctors are a case in point.
When dealing with politics at a “grand scale”, one has to act on threats swiftly and severely, but also proportionately.
Amidst all the smog of bickering, going back and forth, it is the ordinary people who suffer most.
The women in need of Caesarian section, the breadwinners who want to get treated so they can continue to fend for their families, and the innocent children who did not apply to be brought into a cruel world.
These are the lot that suffer most.
Gone are the days when the Hippocratic Oath, taken by medical doctors to uphold specific ethical standards actually meant something.
While Government is not paying doctors what they believe they deserve, this is not by design.
We are all feeling the brunt of austerity. It’s a brutal road, but we must travel together to make the load lighter.
We urge our doctors to take a good look into the mirror and ask themselves what the real consequences of their actions are. Our doctors must understand the scale of the politics they are delving into and be willing to live with the ghost of their actions.
Dr Moyo must also take time to understand these young junior doctors, mostly in their twenties. How can they be helped so they don’t disrupt service delivery and avert the loss of life?
Also, the call by the fired junior doctors for dialogue must be received with open arms by Dr Moyo and his team.
We urge Government and the doctors to find each other for the good of their nation, their people.