WE want to commend Government for reacting promptly to end a potentially disastrous industrial action by nurses at public health institutions, who, despite their sector falling under the essential services cluster, still downed tools in violation of their professional ethics.
The strike by nurses came on the heels of similar action by junior doctors. Doctors, like nurses are, by the nature of their work which involves human life, not supposed to go on a strike.
Theirs is a special profession that must preserve human life at all costs.
The health workers know this and often abuse their leverage and callously throw professional ethics out through the window in a bid to arm-twist Government to act on their demands.
In other words, they have become some gods. Untouchables! While the nation is relieved that normalcy has returned to our hospitals with nurses and doctors attending to the sick as per their mandate, this is certainly not the end of such behaviour by our health workers.
They will abscond whenever they disagree with their employer, exposing patients to pain and death.
Some of their unions are deep into opposition politics and are easily excited into industrial action even if it hurts their own interests. The constant downing of tools by doctors and nurses is a wakeup call to Government.
It cannot be held hostage by its employees, who after all have a moral and professional obligation to attend to the sick.
Government must therefore take measures that ensure that last week’s industrial action by nurses and earlier by doctors, is the last.
It must urgently open up the health sector for investment and once and for all kill this demigod mentality in the sector. Let us liberalise the health sector by opening it up to those with capital to build hospitals and bring in medical expertise in our land.
For example, Indians have long eyed this sector and tried without success during the Robert Mugabe era to invest, but met resistance from a corrupt system.
The nation must take advantage of President Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is open for business policy to ensure it is also open to doctors from across our borders. This helps reduce a potential catastrophe when our own doctors and nurses choose to betray their patients and nation.
Government must also consider training more specialist doctors. This includes even sending them overseas to import knowledge. Currently, the nation is losing in excess of US$400 million annually as Zimbabweans seek medical attention in countries such as India and South Africa, just to mention a few.
The country has very few specialist doctors and some of them have translated this “fewness” into “stubbornness”. The give-us-pay-rise-as-per-our-prescription mentality.
As President Mnangagwa rightly pointed out, Government must never be blackmailed by its own employees for whatever reason. Serious investment in specialist doctors is one such counter-measure.
It is inexplicable just how 38 years into independence, the country has, for example, only six or so neurologists when it takes probably a few millions to have more trained in the area. The situation is worse with cancer where we have very few oncologists — three if not four!
Scarcity breeds stubbornness and this probably explains why our doctors often down tools whenever they feel like, a situation nurses unwittingly tried to emulate, forgetting theirs is everyone’s profession.
Government may also consider training more doctors and nurses in the army and other security arms of the State.
These may be deployed in public hospitals when need arises. It does not make any sense that Government is toiling to turn around the economy for the benefit of all and on the other hand have some people working to kill such efforts by being willing tools of opposition politics that believe in destroying the economy and its people to access the throne.