A lone patient is seen on the bed in the otherwise crowded ward at Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in Dar es Salaam on Monday. Several patients are reported to have asked for early discharge following a go slow by doctors despite calls for them to resume duty. The Trade Union Congress of Tanzania (TUCTA) has termed the strike illegal. (Photo by Robert Okanda)

Health services at the Muhimbili National Hospital and other referral hospitals were paralysed yesterday after some doctors ignored the government order to resume work and nurses and other staff joined the strike.

MNH Public Relations Officer Aminieli Aligaesha said services at the hospital had deteriorated because while doctors had reported for work in the morning and signed in, they did not attend to any patients.

The Guardian team found ambulances carrying patients trapped at the MNH Emergency Department entrance after attendants refused to handle them, forcing some to go back to their respective hospitals.

At the Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI), patients were at first served and assigned to doctors, but they found the consulting rooms empty. They could also not be given appointments because of the absence of doctors. They were later refunded the money they had paid.

Speaking to reporters outside the Mwaisela ward, the chairperson of Tanzania Nurses Association (TANA) Paul Magesa said the nurse’s strike is follows almost the same demands of the doctors. They said since they worked under the supervision of doctors, the absence caused by the strike has made their work difficult.

“We work under the supervision of doctors who are not present at the moment …this has challenged our work for about two weeks now,” said Magesa.

Magesa added: “We have only left one nurse in each ward except in the psychiatric ward because we all understand the ward needs extra attention.

“We decided to go on strike after seeing no hope of doctors resuming work and no sign of the support from the military force,” he said.

“We cannot go on like this anymore because we are risking lives of so many Tanzanians. We are only giving the government one day to have the matter solved,” said Magesa.

The nurses claimed that there were 11 bodies still lying in the wards as nurses could not remove them before doctor’s certification of death.

However the situation at Mwananyamala hospital in Kinondoni Municipality was different as doctors, except interns, attended to patients, according to Kinondoni Municipal Health Medical Officer, Dr Gunini Kamba.

“All doctors of the municipality reported and signed in but the intern doctors didn’t turn up,” said Dr Kamba, adding: “We only faced a problem when two patients we referred to Muhimbili hospital were sent back here.”

Reports say that doctors at both Ocean Road Cancer Institute and Amana Hospital only signed in but did not attend to patients.

In Mbeya Referral Hospital only five doctors out of 75 heeded the government order to resume work by yesterday while others continued with the strike which has lasted for a week.

Some doctors who spoke to journalists at the hospital on condition of anonymity said that they would not resume work until the government responded to their claims.

The Mbeya Referral Hospital Director Eleuter Samky said that until yesterday noon only five doctors were at work at the hospital.

“The situation is worsening. As you can see the doctors are continuing with the strike, so there is still a problem,” Dr Samky said.

He said the strike has caused some services to be stalled and that only emergency cases were being attended to.

But in Dodoma referral hospital the doctors called off the strike and resumed work as directed by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.

Speaking to The Guardian in separate interviews some doctors who reported for work said that forcing an employee to sign will not help unless the government responded to their claims.

Dr Godfrey Mtei who is the Dodoma Regional Medical Officer confirmed that all the doctors had resumed work.

The chairperson dealing with workers’ demands Dr Yahya Magaso said the PM was given misleading information that the hospital’s doctors were on strike while they were on duty and attending to patients.

He said their claims were not only allowances but also working condition and tools such as medical equipment which were supposed to be provided for free to expectant mothers and children under five years.

One of the doctors, Peter Mbele said that they have responded to the PM’s directive calling on the government to stop handling their problem politically or resorting to use of force.

Dr Mbele advised the government to exercise wisdom in responding to their claims, because he believed that they can all be implemented and those which are difficult could be resolved gradually.

Reached for comment on the situation, Health and Social Welfare minister Dr Hadji Mponda said in an interview with the Guardian yesterday: “I cannot confirm to you whether the doctors are still on strike following the order issued by the Prime Minister on Sunday. We will technically scan the names of all doctors who resumed work in hospitals as well as those who did not appear despite being on duty.”

In another development Chadema yesterday criticised the government statement given by Premier Pinda in response to the doctor’s demands.

In a statement issued yesterday, it called on Premier Pinda and the government to stop threats and use of excessive power against doctors and other groups in the society when they exercised their constitutional rights to question the accountability of the government.

The statement issued by the party’s Publicity Secretary John Mnyika called upon wananchi to continue supporting the doctors’ demands to ensure that public hospitals in the country were areas safe for better services.

Source The Guardian

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