GOVERNMENT has been urged to devise a sustainable plan that ensures health workers have adequate tools of the trade to avoid recurrent strikes by doctors and nurses.
BY VANESSA GONYE
In a statement, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said government should not relax after the intervention of organisations like Higher Life Foundation (HLF) and other development partners, who bailed it from the human resource crisis that had befallen the health sector towards the end of last year.
“That doctors are back at work after the intervention of Higher Life Foundation is no reason for government to sit on its laurels without working out a permanent solution,” he said.
“CWGH believes that other than addressing issues of salaries and working conditions, there is also need to formulate a plan on how to equip and stock public health institutions to provide efficient services.”
He said while the HLF offer was commendable, CWGH was worried by the absence of a concrete sustainable plan by government after the expiry of the current arrangement.
“Will the doctors continue going to work? Will the government be able to match the current salaries and benefits? It is very unlikely,” Rusike said.
The Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa-founded HLF came to government’s rescue in stopping the prolonged strike by doctors, offering consultants $1 000; senior and junior doctors $7 500 and $5 000, respectively.
Rusike called on the government to seize the opportunity when doctors and nurses are still at work to craft a permanent solution to their grievances.
“The fact that nurses are now demanding a similar rescue package arrangement demonstrates that the Higher Life Foundation arrangement is a stop-gap measure as the humanitarian foundation cannot fund salaries for all health workers,” he said.
“We call for increased domestic resource mobilisation to ensure the needs of health workers and patients are well catered for. We also call upon the government to allocate 15% of its annual budget to the health sector in line with Abuja Declaration target to make sure that the sector is well catered for including paying reasonable salaries to doctors and nurses, purchasing of drugs, sundries, equipment and refurbishment of infrastructure.”
Rusike implored government to award non-cash incentives to doctors, nurses and other health workers to motivate them, stop brain-drain and avert strikes.
“The government must prioritise addressing the shortages of medicines in public hospitals, the paltry salaries and working conditions of health workers, dilapidated infrastructure and obsolete medical equipment in health institution,” he said.