Patients are stranded in hospitals in Zimbabwe, as striking junior doctors refuse to return to work. The doctors, who could be off duty for one week, are protesting an increase in the internship period and are demanding a 700% pay increase if they must remain in government practice.
Dr. Tarirai Kwatikunda is a member of the Doctors’ Association in Zimbabwe. VOA English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked him about the patients who need of their services. “We are very much concerned; some Christian doctors are still continuing with their work, but may the blood of all the patients go upon the policymakers. We are not policymakers; we have been going about our duty before this policy was implemented.”
Dr. Kwatikunda explains that a junior doctor is one working under supervision at a government hospital. Traditionally, upon graduation from medical school they spend two years working and are given a letter of reference to help them find employment. Instead, the striking doctors are expected to spend another year at the hospitals because there is a shortage of doctors. Dr. Kwatikunda does not think the doctors should be forced to work with government. He says policymakers should understand their dilemma. “Policymakers are also doctors. During their time they used to go to districts with their own cars, now the car loan cannot even buy a bicycle here.”
Dr. Kwatikunda says government should resolve the matter so that doctors can continue serving those in need. “Private practice is expensive, far beyond the reach of ordinary people. District hospitals serve 90% of the population, or even more. So the government needs to address issues that can satisfy the needs of the nation properly, so that we can go back to work.”
Dr. Kwatikunda says a mediator is working with the government and the doctors. He hopes things will return to normal soon.
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