The belated move should not have come after intervention by the National Assembly to address the doctors’ demands and on a day the parliamentary Social Services Committee was meeting with representatives of the medical profession in Dar es Salaam.
By joining the now infamous strike, the consultants, who are the senior most members of the profession, will help to prolong the standoff between doctors and the government as well as the suffering and preventable deaths of innocent Tanzanians. The move is unfortunate because it will not result in instant granting of the doctors’ demands.
Rather than jumping into the bandwagon, society expected the senior practitioners to show maturity, exercise perseverance and remain true to the calling of their noble profession, which puts service above self. Instead of joining the strike, the consultants were expected to summon the junior doctors back to work and support the ongoing negotiations on a formula for sustainable improved perks and working conditions.
For, it is important for the doctors to admit that strikes may be disruptive but they cannot bring miracles. Throughout the world, pay rise is negotiated, and the right to strike is invoked only when all other avenues have been exhausted. What is peculiar about the doctors’ case is that it is advanced by a committee instead of organized trade union, and negotiation is not in the vocabulary of the committee, which declared a strike in the first instance.
That raises questions about the real motive behind the move. Is it calculated to create a crisis and ultimately public disaffection with the government of the day? If the strike cannot deliver instant change, whose interest does it serve? And why are the doctors not budging despite the numerous appeals from the sick, clerics, ordinary people, other professionals, lawmakers, the young and old, everybody?
Is the rebellion fanned from some quarter? We are on record supporting the demand for better remuneration for doctors, medical workers generally and, indeed, all civil servants, but we must restate that there is more than what meets the eye in the ongoing strike, which should be thoroughly investigated. We commend doctors and consultants, who have kept the promise to continue serving the sick while pressing for improved returns. The authorities will do well to accord them special recognition.