The Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Haji Mponda stresses a point to journalists on the ongoing doctors’ strike. He is flanked by his Deputy, Dr Lucy Nkya. (Photo by Fadhili Akida)

The Tanzania government has directed all medics who have laid down tools to resume work immediately while it is working on their eight demands as a nationwide strike by doctors continues to cripple medical services in various public hospitals countrywide.

As the strike continues to bite, the Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hadji Mponda, told a press conference in Dar es Salaam on Thursday that he wanted the striking doctors to make good of the opportunity availed by the Prime Minister to have a dialogue with them for the good of the nation.  “

The people most affected by the strike are innocent Tanzanians. I call upon doctors and other medical professionals that are on strike to show compassion and engage in talks with Premier Mizengo Pinda to find a lasting solution,” Dr Mponda said.

A random survey by the ‘Daily News’ at the Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) established that some patients were forced to return home after services were suspended at the country’s largest hospital.

At Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (Moi), only emergency and nursing services were available as other patients who needed to see doctors were told to return home until they are informed otherwise through the media. The situation was even more heart-rending at the children’s unit where some children suffering from sickle cells and anaemia were told to return home and come back next Thursday while they are supposed to complete arrangements to travel to India for further treatment earlier next week.

One of the parents, Muhonewa Mfaume, the mother of Hamida Mfaume (2) who suffers from heart problems and needs to travel to India next week for a special treatment, was discouraged after failing to sign documents at MNH. She said that all the necessary processes were ready and the letter from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare had already been released for her to travel to India.

“I do not even know what to do and my daughter’s condition is worsening by the day, I came with my letter here to finalize my trip but the nurses told me to return next week because doctors are on strike,” she said. Long queues at the Out-Patient Department were observed as the doctors’ attendance rooms had only a few doctors believed to be interns.

One of the interns told this newspaper that only patients with serious cases were attended to and that most doctors had gone on strike including some interns. District hospitals such as Amana and Temeke were clearly overwhelmed by patients following the slow go by doctors at MNH. ‘Daily News’ observed an unusual huge number of patients at the hospitals up to the evening waiting to be attended to by doctors who were also not enough.

According to Dr Ayub Kibao of Amana hospital, there was a shortage after the interns went on strike and had caused the suspension of services in the OPD clinic to allow the few remaining doctors to serve emergency cases and attend to patients in wards and those in serious conditions.

Dr Kibao said that the interns have been helpful in providing services to patients at the hospitals and their going on strike at Amana had disastrous effects. He said there have been a number of patients referred to MNH for treatment but had to come to Amana to receive emergency services since they were in very serious condition. One of the patients, Hamisi Ramadhani, said that he had been referred to MNH but failed to get services there and had little choice but to go back to Amana hospital where he has been admitted.

“We are experiencing a very serious situation right now after the suspension of services at various hospitals. The government should try to solve doctors’ problems soon  lest many people lose their lives,” he said. Reports from Kilimanjaro, Dodoma, Morogoro and Mbeya have it that the situation is worse as very few public health facilities were operating. The few still in operation have already been overwhelmed and many patients are not being attended to at regional hospitals.

In Iringa and Rukwa regions, most doctors were still attending to patients while in Mwanza region attempts to start a strike at Bugando hospital were foiled after the church leadership led by Geita Archbishop Damian Dallu intervened. In another development, the committee of doctors on strike has expressed its readiness to meet and discuss with the prime minister or his delegation.

The Committee Chairman, Dr Ulimboka Steven, told reporters in Dar es Salaam on Thursday that the doctors had opened doors for discussion with the government since the beginning and was ready to meet the PM anytime. He pointed out that doctors are not sadists who enjoy the fact that patients are suffering and called on the government to resolve the matters soon.

Prime Minister Pinda on Wednesday vowed to meet relevant parties in the conflict to try and find a lasting solution to the standoff between medical doctors on internship and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.  “I am ready to meet and listen to them as soon as possible (this week) so that together we can solve this problem,” the premier told media editors on Wednesday.   On his part, Minister Mponda noted that on January 21, 2012 his ministry and the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) met and from the meeting, the ministry was presented with an eight-point request list.

Source Tanzania Daily News

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