Specialist consulting doctors at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals embarked on a strike on Tuesday to demand improvements in the supply of consumables and equipment.
The consultants said they would only be attending to “dire emergencies” while hammering the government for negotiating in bad faith with doctors.
The strike by senior doctors was described as historic, because previously all strikes have been initiated by junior doctors.
“As the consultants of Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, we have decided to rationalise use of the limited and very finite resources that are currently available. We are now forced with immediate effect to further scale down the services which we are offering, to deal with dire emergencies only until the situation normalises,” the doctors said in a strike notice to hospital authorities.
The doctors warned that “the currently available resources might not be able to sustain the emergency service provision beyond the end of the month.”
The consultants said they had persuaded junior doctors to call off their strike in November last year in the hope that the government would move quickly to address persistent shortages of basic essential drugs, equipment and sundries.
However, the situation with regards to medical consumables and equipment is now even worse than it was in December 2018. This has continued to cause severe compromise in the safety and working conditions of staff and a reduced capacity to deliver services to patients,” the consultants said.
They added: “We feel that these compounding factors have compromised patient care, putting patients’ health and lives at risk at the very institution which is supposed to restore health and life.”
The government managed to persuade doctors to call off their strike last year after promises were made that enough drugs and sundries were being imported. But the doctors say the promises were never fulfilled.
Since the beginning of the year, the doctors said they had been “unable to resume normal service, especially in the areas of anaesthesia, surgery and critical care due to the above-mentioned constraints.”
“We have tried to make adjustments to no avail,” said the doctors. “Statistics show that for January and February this year, we have operated less than 20 percent of the elective cases that we were doing in the same period in 2018. For emergencies, the time taken before the patient goes to theatre is now unnecessarily too long as their relatives have to privately source for the necessary supplies.
“Furthermore, patients with simple conditions like appendicitis and diabetic foot ulcers are going for days without the required antibiotics leading to unnecessary complications. This is just one simple example of the dire conditions patients are currently facing.”
The strike could spread to other hospitals, and Zimbabwe’s health system could be plunged into another crisis if junior doctors join the industrial action. “As consultants, our hearts bleed because of what is prevailing and we feel that if we continue pretending we can offer full services we would be complicit in the deaths of our patients,” the senior doctors said, while revealing that they were seeking an urgent meeting with the Health Minister Obadiah Moyo to find a solution.
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