Mr Pinda fulfilled his promise to meet the doctors’ representatives before leaving for the Bunge session in Dodoma, but none of them came to the Karimjee Hall in Dar es Salaam yesterday, where the Premier waited in vain. That was the highest degree of disrespect for the leader of government business.
It was the doctors who dismissed measures offered by the Ministers for Health and Public Service Management, Dr Haji Mponda and Ms Hawa Ghasia, respectively, to address their demands on Friday, insisting that they must meet the Prime Minister himself. The ridiculous demand that Mr Pinda should first sign a commitment that he will meet all the doctors’ demands is tantamount to ordering the government around, which the medics know they cannot do to their employer.
It is obvious that this condition was put forward because the doctors know none of their demands can be obtained at a go through negotiation, which is the universally accepted procedure. For, they want their salaries raised 500 per cent at the stroke of a pen in addition to a range of allowances totalling 120 per cent of the new salary.
Premier Pinda has stated the obvious, that such demands are impossible to deliver at once, but expressed the government’s readiness to negotiate gradual improvement of the doctors’ perks. The other demand that intern doctors transferred from the Muhimbili National Hospital should return has been granted.
The government chose not to interrogate this demand, although it is an open secret that consultant doctors use the interns to do the donkey work in the wards while they pursue side income in private hospitals, including their own. There is no dispute that emolument for doctors and medical staff in general is inadequate and that practical measures must be taken by the government to improve the situation.
It is equally undisputable, however, that such change can only come piecemeal depending on the capability of the government budget. We concur that the medics should be given preference, but that will still take into consideration other rare professionals, whose contribution is vital to the nation.
And while it could be argued that the doctors are legally entitled to strike action, it is also the law that such action should only be taken if all other reasonable means have failed to resolve a dispute. Medical staff know that what matters for their job is not only individual benefit but the lives of Tanzanians, a majority of whom have no means to pay for private medical service.
We salute doctors who have heeded the calling to save lives and continued working. It is not too late for the rest to see reason and report today as directed, unless, of course, there is ulterior motive behind their action.