Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) and Doctors’ Caretaker Committee yesterday resolved to stand by their strike action, despite Tuesday’s High Court order requiring them to go back to work.
The doctors’ announcement comes as the Prime Minister told the National Assembly in Dodoma that the government was losing patience with the doctors’ behaviour.
By continuing with strike, the doctors have defied the High Court Labour Division order which ordered MAT to immediately call off the doctors’ strike, pending hearing of the main case on July 24, this year.
The court ordered MAT to comply with issued orders, tasking the association’s president to address the compliance through the media. “It is so ordered,” stated part of the High Court order.
Speaking to journalists concerning the incident and their stand to continue with the strike, MAT President, Dr Namala Nkope stated:
“We are going to continue with the strike, although the court has issued a statement…we won’t be threatened anymore,” he underlined.
Namala called on the doctors not to be afraid, as what they are fighting for is legal and asked them to put down their tools immediately.
“The government has gone too far in this. We are not going to hold talks with it anymore concerning the on-going strike if they think they can handle the matter,” he said.
“We are very saddened by what has just happened to our leader. This is a bad image to the country,” he said in reference to the beating of the Doctors’ committee chairman, Dr Stephen Ulimboka by unknown people on Tuesday.
According to Dr Namala, the association has condemned the incident and was asking the government to launch investigations into it immediately.
“The government should know that we are demanding our right. But we do not understand why the government is pushing us like donkeys,” said Namala.
He urged the government to be very careful in handling the matter, saying it might one day affect the peace of the nation that has existed for over 50 years.
Speaking in the House yesterday on the doctors’ strike, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said the government’s patience was exhausted.
He however said the government will today issue its stance on steps to be taken following the on ongoing countrywide doctors’ strike.
Pinda said the government has made efforts to ensure that it solves their problems but it seems the doctors have not shown that they are committed.
“I would like to inform the National Assembly that the government will issue its stance tomorrow (today) on steps to be taken after making all those efforts to resolve the problems… whatever is going to happen,” Pinda stressed.
The Premier’s statement came after Mbozi-East MP Godfrey Zambi asked for the Speaker’s directive on the matter.
Pinda said that after the two parties failed to agree on some terms the government took the matter to Commission for Mediation and Arbitration to inform them on what has not been agreed and the Commission ruled the matter be taken to Labour Tribunal.
He said on June 22 the High Court, Labour Division ordered the doctors to call off their strike and announce in the media that the strike has been called off.
“Thereafter it was a weekend and the government was observing whether the doctors could heed the court order,” Pinda explained.
He said the government was forced to go back to the High Court on Tuesday and the Court ordered the doctors implement the order it issued on June 22.
“It is true that the doctors are going on with the strike. We could have taken the required actions at the time, but have respected the court orders,” Pinda said.
He said the High Court was executing it duties, thus it was not wise for the government to intervene.
Pinda however called upon the doctors to respect the order issued b y the High Court by calling off the strike.
“The call of government to the doctors is to respect the Court order we have agreed as government to issue our stance here tomorrow to explain on steps the government will take after it had made all those efforts,” Pinda said.
Earlier Zambi used section 68 (7) of the parliamentary standing orders saying that on June 22 the Minister for Health and Social Welfare issued a statement in relation to the doctors’ demands and improvement of their benefits.
He said the government issued its statement following the doctors’ threat to strike on June 22.
“Despite the High Court Order on Friday the doctors continued with the strike and today morning (yesterday) I talked to some workers of Muhimbili National Hospital who confirmed that the strike was on and only a few specialist doctors were attending to the patients,” Zambi said.
He said although the government made efforts to respond to the doctors’ demands, they continued to strike questioning the measures the government was taking despite the fact that the matter was still in Court.
“We cannot remain quiet while our fellow Tanzanians are suffering while the matters in court …what steps is the government taking, Zambi asked.