After the Association of Health Professionals of Mozambique (APSUSM) announced last Sunday (04 June) the suspension of the strike for a period of 15 days, some health units in Maputo city, Mozambique’s capital, recorded unusual overcrowds between Monday and Tuesday of the current week.
The suspended strike, which had arisen in a demand for better salary and decent working conditions, was supposed to last 25 days, as of 01 June, but it only lasted four days.
As the Citizen’s Observatory for Health (OCS) observed, a large number of users who sought health services on the days of the strike did not have access to medical assistance and medication, as the professionals were not at their workstations.
In response to one of the claims of the professionals regarding the lack of working material, the Deputy National Director of Medical Warehouses, Abu Jone, – after the second day of negotiations with the APSUSM – said that at least 16 million pairs of gloves, 42 million surgical masks and over one million disposable aprons, among other personal protective equipment, are available.
In an interview with one of the users, Lucinda Gomes, a mother of two children, the OCS learnt that the doors of the 1º de Maio Health Centre, on the outskirts of the Mozambican capital, were closed.
Questioned in the waiting line, the user said that “my youngest son felt ill in the early hours of Saturday morning and, early in the morning, I went to the hospital unit to seek assistance for him, but when I got there the gates were closed.”
According to Gomes, there being no other solution but to return home with the child, prayers were the only way for her son to get better, but there was no success. In fact, the next day, she also started feeling unwell, but did not even try to leave the house because of the previous situation.
“I only found out on Monday night through the media that the strike had been suspended and so I immediately programmed myself to, on Tuesday, reschedule the appointment for me and the baby”, the source said.
Our team approached her around 2 pm, but she was already at the health center since 7 am. She had already got the appointment for her son, only her own was missing.
“It was much more crowded than this. I’ve been here since 7am, I managed to get my son’s appointment and I’m still missing mine. The service is not great, it’s quite slow”, she said.
Another user interviewed by our team, also at the 1º de Maio Health Centre, is called Amélia Tomás, who was accompanying her husband, a victim of a stroke. The user was anxiously waiting for the assistance that would be offered to her husband, arguing that the slowness was quite accentuated.
“Unfortunately, the service is very slow. They take a long time to call the people who are supposed to come into the office. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do, we can only endure because we need assistance”, Amelia lamented.
Service Goes Partially
Although the APSUSM suspended the strike for 15 days to allow dialogue with the Government, it is evident that the activities are partially taking place, some services have not yet returned to normal operation.
Some users interviewed by our team complained about the excessive slowness in attendance, to the point of suggesting the possibility of the strike being in force silently.
At the Malhangalene Health Centre, some patients abandoned the queue, even after acquiring their tickets, as they observed that the professionals were not active, they were merely “getting together in little groups for small meetings and nothing more than that.”
One of the patients at the scene, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, explained that he had been at the center for four hours and was only advised to wait at the front office.
“Everyone sitting here is waiting for service. We actually don’t know what is happening because we heard that the strike has been suspended, but we don’t think so. The nurses were out here meeting and nothing else happened”, the source explained.
Similar to 1º de May, in Malhangalene there are also patients who went to seek services earlier, on days when the strike was taking place, and were sent home. They believe that the overcrowd is exactly due to this fact, because many consultations were left pending.
Because many services were closed, there are reports that there were also deaths due to lack of assistance.
Anonymous sources told the OCS that at Maputo Provincial Hospital, 10 deaths were recorded in the four days that activities were paralyzed.
In an attempt to hear the hospital’s reaction on the impacts that this strike would have caused, apart from the deaths, the OCS contacted the director of that health unit, but she said she was not authorized to give interviews.
The health professionals are demanding better salaries and working conditions in the health units, at a time when there is a lack of work tools. The group also wants the government to solve the lack of work material, including gloves, serums and X-ray equipment, because the lack of this equipment exposes health workers to infections, responsible for deaths that statistics do not show.