While the memories of a strike which doctors in the country staged a few months ago are still fresh in the people’s minds, medical practitioners serving in the public health sector have vowed to stage another countrywide strike, with effect from today to pressurise the government to work on their demands.
The doctors’ decision to stick to their guns was confirmed yesterday by the Doctors Association chairman, Dr Steven Ulimboka, a few hours after Health minister Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi had issued a statement in Parliament here detailing how the government had worked on their demands.
According to Dr Ulimboka, no agreement had been reached between them and the government, adding that the Health minister did not tell the National Assembly the truth.
Dr Ulimboka said Dr Mwinyi must have made a mistake by meeting with leaders of the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT), clarifying that the right organ to deal with in this stand-off is the Association of Doctors.
“Even if it happens that the government goes to court the only organ that will be liable is MAT because that is the association that the government has been dealing with,” he said.
Speaking earlier in the morning in Parliament, Dr Mwinyi called on the doctors to call off the strike as the government had met some of their demands as the two parties awaited a High Court decision on the crisis.
The minister said he had done all in his power to resolve the matter, although he admitted that there were some demands which remained unattended to.
“I want to inform the House that on June 19, 2012 the two concerned parties, the government and the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT), took the crisis to an arbitrator at the Commission for Mediation and Arbitration (CMA) on the measures taken and the stage reached,” he said.
The minister noted that following the decision, the current situation was for the matter to be presented to the High Court’s Labour Division so the court could decide it.
The Health minister explained that after discussions between the government committee and the doctors’ representatives, the representatives went to report back to their colleagues on June 9, 2012, adding that, according to media reports, the MAT members did not agree with what had been concluded and hence announced an industrial dispute with the government which would culminate in an endless strike until their demands were met.
Mwinyi elaborated that following the media reports he wrote to MAT president Dr Namala Mkopi requesting him and his association to meet him with a view to discussing areas they were in disagreement.
“In his reply MAT president said they had been engaging in talks with the government committee for about three months without realizing the desired results, adding that since the government budget for 2012/13 was already in place there was no need for further negotiations since they would be pointless,” he said.
The health minister also informed the House about the ten doctors’ demands which the government had met. They include changes in the ministry’s top leadership under which the minister, Haji Mponda and his deputy, Dr Lucy Nkya, as well as permanent secretary Brandina Nyoni and chief medical officer Dr. Deo Mtasiwa were sacked.
Dr, Mwinyi added that from last February the government had beefed up on-call allowance: Sh15,000/- for interns, and 25,000/- for specialists, adding that under the new rates the government had already spent Sh 7.9billion, adding that in the 2012/13 budget Sh18.9 had been set aside for the purpose.
According to the minister, the government had increased post-moterm allowance from Sh10,000 to Sh100,000 for medical doctors and Sh50,000 for assistants.
It had also agreed to issue health insurance for doctors for Hepatitis B vaccination for all health sector workers during 2012/13 financial year.
However minister Mwinyi said the government had not met five doctors’ demands due to lack of financial capacity. The demands in question include a rise in salaries, adding that the rise in salaries allocated in the next fiscal year was 15 per cent.
The government was also unable to introduce demaned risk allowance by 30 percent , hardship allowance amounting to 40 percent of the salary, housing facility or housing allowance of 30 percent of the salary and 10 percent for transport allowance.
Dr. Mwinyi however said the demands which could not be met would remain subject for discussion and the government could fulfill them phase by phase as the financial situation would allow.
He added that the ministry had information from various regions that the MAT leaders and representatives have been visiting the areas with intent to persuade medical doctors and other employees in the health sector to support the planned strike.
Mwinyi mentioned the regions which were allegedly visited as Mwanza, Dodoma , Shinyanga, Mara Kilimanjaro and Mtwara. He said in the case of Dar es Salaam region, the regional commissioner had banned the doctors’ meetings.