DOCTORS in Zimbabwe have embarked on a nationwide strike that is crippling public hospitals.
At one of the country’s biggest hospitals, Harare Central, patients are being turned away or left in corridors without assistance.
Striking doctors are demanding better working conditions, and increases in their salaries and allowances.
“There are no doctors, yet they made us pay our money,” said Rufaro Zimhute, the mother of a sick child.
“Since the morning, I have been waiting. Look, my daughter is sick.”
Patient George Bako said no one was being treated.
“The situation is very bad here. We are in trouble,” he said.
The strike, which started slowly last week, has gained strength in its second week, with doctors saying they will not go back to work until their demands are met.
“Let them increase our call allowances and give us other incentives because an unhappy doctor is not a good person to treat you,” said Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association spokesperson Dr Mxolisi Ngwenya.
“If these grievances are not addressed, then we are not operating at any hospital where we don’t have drugs, where our money is not paid. We are ready, even to stretch [the strike] to 100 days.”
Dr Amos Tsopo said: “There is no difference for us being at work or staying at home. What will I do when I go to hospital, where there is no medicine? Some of our patients come from rural areas and can’t afford medicine and then we leave them just to die.”
Zimbabwe’s doctors are some of the worst-paid in Africa, with salaries as low as R3,500 a month.
The authority that regulates health workers pleaded with striking doctors to go back to work to save lives.
In 1985, the World Health Organisation described Zimbabwe’s healthcare system as among the best in the developing world.
But decades of political and financial instability have devastated public facilities.