A nationwide doctors’ strike came into force on Monday this week, which will be extended for 21 days, covering almost all services, as announced by the Mozambique’s Medical Association (AMM).
The strike, which consists of the paralysis of activities in all health units, is seen by doctors as a mean of putting pressure on the Government, specifically the Ministry of Health (MISAU), in order to respond to the demands placed at the dialogue table last year, when the Single Salary Table (TSU) was implemented.
According to the AMM, four months after the last talks, only 10 per cent of what was agreed has been implemented by the Government, corresponding to risks and allowances. However, the payment of overtime and the reinstatement of the monetary values cut during the implementation of the TSU are missing.
The paralysis of activities by the doctors takes place at a time when the Association of United and Solidarity Health Professionals of Mozambique (APSUSM) has suspended its strike, which should have started in June. The cancellation, for a period of 60 days, is intended to give the government space to respond to their concerns.
Although the two associations belong to the class of health professionals, they are not at the same negotiating pace with the government, which is why APSUSM decided not to join the strikers’ fight.
In a press conference called last week, APSUSM announced its disinterest and said it would not join the doctors in their demands.
According to APSUSM, through its spokesperson, Rosana Zunguze, during the strike of the medical profession, all services, at all levels, will be provided by APSUSM members throughout the national territory, in strict collaboration with other entities that have been designated by the structures that oversee the National Health System, such as military doctors, partners and foreigners.
She also emphasized that the members of APSUSM are fully available to carry out any activity in the health sector, including management activities, in coordination with the MISAU, provided they have the necessary qualifications to do so.
“We, as APSUSM, want to emphasize that the people cannot continue to suffer and the State must not be threatened. In this case, the APSUSM board uses this to call for the self-sacrificing delivery of all its members during the doctors’ strike, doing their utmost to provide better health care to the Mozambican people”, she said.
As said and done, APSUSM is, since Monday, ensuring all minimum services in all health facilities in the country, which has reduced the impacts of the doctors’ strike on patients and users of health services.
Rosana Zunguze told the Citizen Observatory for Health (OCS) that APSUSM did not join the doctors’ strike because they had already achieved part of the results of their demands, while health professionals have not yet made any progress.
“Although we all have the same focus, which is to improve working conditions, we have different gains. There is a part of the concerns that for doctors has already been fixed, the part of risks and allowances. And for us it is not yet”, he said.
He added that “doctors are asking for overtime, while we are fighting for fair payment, risks and improved working conditions in general.”
Regarding the strike, she said that all services are being ensured, not only by APSUSM, but also by doctors who have not joined the strike.
AMM remains firm on strike
For its part, the AMM states that it feels cheated by the Government for having appointed a different team from the one that had been in the previous negotiations. This act, for the Association, constitutes a delaying strategy to gain time on the demands.
Napoleao Viola, secretary general of the AMM, stated in his latest public communication that at the last meeting, held on Friday, the new commission was unable to answer any questions on the points previously addressed.
According to Viola, the doctors are firm in their decision, “in what is our level of information that comes to us, until this Tuesday, at 1pm, we had about 75% adherence of the medical class.”
Meanwhile, the AMM secretary-general assured that doctors continue to provide minimum services, through colleagues who are members of the association, such as military and foreign doctors, as well as those who hold senior positions.
Viola also said that the class is registering problems that are not very favorable to a process that takes place within the scope of the right to strike, which all employees have, including doctors.
“There are colleagues who have been under pressure and intimidation that they will not be permanently appointed, and that they will not progress in their careers, as well as have their contracts terminated,” he said.
Viola condemns the attitude “and the AMM management reserves the right to pursue these issues in the proper institutions of law. Despite this, AMM stands firm and has been encouraging its members, reassuring them of the legality of the strike.”
On the other hand, he said that within what are the demands of the class, it continues to be noted that working conditions within the National Health Service continue to deteriorate, with a lack of supplies to diagnose patients, shortages of medicines, serums, power cuts in several health facilities, among other problems.
He reiterated that, unfortunately, doctors were pushed into this strike, although they had restrained themselves so that this could not happen.
Government promises to make a statement in the next few hours
For its part, the Government promised to pronounce itself within the next few hours on the strike. According to the Government spokesperson, Filimão Suaze, at the end of the 24th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers, the Executive is reflecting on the matter, based on the country’s financial conditions, as well as the rights and duties of doctors as employees.
“It should be noted that when we talk about the doctors’ strike, we are talking about a group and not all doctors who are on strike”, he said, concluding that “most doctors are not working.”