‘Take doctors seriously’

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HARARE – President Robert Mugabe and his ministers should take doctors seriously and stop treating them as if there are enemies of the State, chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Health Ruth Labode has said.

Reacting to Mugabe’s utterances that doctors should sacrifice their labour notwithstanding the hard fact that medical aid societies are not paying for services rendered, Labode, who is also a medical practitioner, said the ruling party must be serious.

She said Mugabe must demand answers from his Health minister David Parirenyatwa before accusing doctors of being greedy.

“Why are ministers not working for nothing? Government should be doing something to solve the situation not to say that doctors should sacrifice. He (Mugabe) should be asking what his minister is doing about the situation. These people (doctors) also have rentals, they have issues. What good would it be to the country, if they close their surgeries?” Labode asked.

Mugabe, who is 92, prefers to visit foreign medical facilities whenever sick. His family and ministers are no exception as they also seek better facilities that the poor can only imagine.

Local doctors, who are grappling with the economic meltdown, are owed an estimated $220 million by medical aid societies and they have since vowed to only treat patients who have cash up-front.

The private doctors last week resolved to reject medical aid cards as they argued that the health insurers were not remitting funds to them, while the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) was, on the other hand, taxing them even before they received anything from medical aid societies.

Labode, an MDC MP, said Mugabe should have asked his minister to solve the situation instead of castigating the doctors for demanding their dues.

In a statement that angered health professionals during the burial of the late Felix Muchemwa on Sunday, Mugabe said doctors should not focus on money but rather focus on saving lives.

“Today, we read about a standoff between doctors and medical insurers, we never cease to wonder what has become of these fields of care. Have they lost their values that defined them to life and sustenance?” Mugabe said.

“True we expect everyone, doctors included, to be rewarded evenly for work done. But is it not important for us all in the medical field to appreciate the social context within which we execute our duties?”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said the whole issue pointed to a structural failure in the whole health delivery system.

“It also points to a major fracture in the country’s macro-economic fundamentals. Zimbabwe’s economy is a terribly sick economy that is in need of urgent surgery to stabilise and thereafter, grow it,” Gutu told the Daily News earlier.

“For as long as the economy remains in its current comatose condition, all professionals will find it extremely difficult to run and sustain a viable professional practice.”

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