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This week will mark a month since doctors went on strike demanding a review of their allowances and working conditions.
The doctors went on strike on March 1, but their demands were not new as the job boycotts have become an annual occurrence for the past four years.
Government has been paying a deaf ear to the grievances, hoping the problem would just disappear, but events of the past few weeks show that doctors have lost patience and will no longer be pushed around.
Some of their demands include an increase in their on-call allowances, a facility to import vehicles duty-free and a review of allowances for doctors based at rural health centres.
The doctors also have a demand that resonates with the ordinary Zimbabwean, which is that government must address the critical shortage of drugs and medicines at hospitals.
Health workers are tired of watching helplessly as patients die of diseases that can be easily treated because hospitals are without essential drugs.
The strike has dragged on because the Health Services Board (HSB) and the doctors have on several occasions failed to agree on the way forward, leaving many poor patients without access to medical treatment.
There are no records indicating the number of people that have died as a result of the strike, but it goes without saying that lives have been lost needlessly during the stand-off.
The HSB has been accused of negotiating in bad faith after claiming on at least two occasions that it had reached an agreement with the doctors to return to work.
Typical of the government, officials have been rushing to the media to announce certain adjustments to doctors’ working conditions without properly engaging the disgruntled employees.
The strike has put Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa on the spotlight, with some Zimbabweans demanding that he steps down.
Since the strike began, Parirenyatwa has come out in the open to say the doctors’ demands are justified and the government has an obligation to meet them.
However, this does not seem to be the consensus view in government, judging by the way the negotiations between the HSB and the doctors have dragged on.
Treasury does not seem to be flexible in addressing the problem and this means the time has come for the captain to intervene to save the ship.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa must show leadership by stepping in to end the impasse between doctors and the HSB.
The president can no longer afford to fold his arms while patients are being turned away from hospitals and access to health care is becoming harder for the poor.
Mnangagwa must show the same tenacity he demonstrated in addressing complaints by traditional leaders when he moved with speed to dole out top-of-the-range vehicles to chiefs several weeks ago at the slightest prodding.
Zimbabwe’s health system has been neglected for far too long and the strikes are just a symptom of a time bomb.
If there was any crisis where the president needed to demonstrate that his mantra that it is no longer business as usual is not just propaganda, it is the doctors’ strike.
Zimbabweans expect the impasse to be broken as of yesterday and the president has the powers and capacity to do that. He must act.