5 December 2018
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has noted with concern the industrial action by medical doctors working in public institutions. As a result of the strike, health service delivery has been negatively affected with some patients reportedly being turned away from these institutions. The ZHRC would like to point out that the primary responsibility in achieving the right to health lies with the Government of Zimbabwe as the principal duty bearer. A strike by doctors results in the disruption of critical health services which disproportionately affects the vulnerable and indigent members of society. This is a violation of citizens’ guaranteed fundamental right to health care and life enshrined in sections 76 and 48 of the Constitution, respectively.
The ZHRC further notes that the grievances and issues leading to the current impasse are not new, indicating that previous efforts to address them have failed. It is important for the Government to come up with lasting solutions and break the vicious cycle of crisis management. Meanwhile, the few patients who manage to access the services of private doctors have to grapple with the new challenge of exorbitant consultation fees in foreign currency being charged by some of these doctors. In addition, most local pharmacies are also demanding payment of medicines in foreign currency. This is therefore, a dire situation that requires urgent attention from the health authorities and indeed the entire national leadership.
The crisis in the health sector is further compounded by reports of another wave of cholera outbreaks recently confirmed around the country namely in Uzumba, Mount Darwin, and Chiredzi. This is putting many lives at risk of a disease that is easily manageable and preventable.
In view of the aforesaid, the ZHRC recommends that the Government of Zimbabwe does the following:
- Comes up with conditions of service and remuneration packages that are negotiated in good faith and implemented with sincerity to avoid recurrence of the health personnel industrial actions;
- Ensures training and recruitment of more medical doctors and other health personnel to improve service delivery especially in public health institutions;
- Addresses the bottlenecks in the supply of medical provisions including critical life-saving drugs and equipment;
- Invests in health related infrastructure including water and sanitation facilities to prevent water-borne diseases that have become burdensome to the national health system and;
- Prioritises the health sector in the national budget and when allocating scarce resources such as vehicles, fuel, and foreign currency.
To the medical doctors and health personnel:
- The ZHRC urges all medical doctors and related personnel to remain loyal patient servants by abiding by their professional ethics and Hippocratic Oath.
- They should, therefore, continue to negotiate with the employer, placing the lives of the patient they committed to serve at the forefront.
The Commission remains committed to its watchdog role and responsibilities of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights as per its constitutional mandate for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
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