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Dr Brighton Chireka: We want our doctors back at work now, no ifs no buts!

By Dr Brighton Chireka

The joke has gone too far, the Minister of Health must address this urgently or resign. The Minister of Health is becoming one of the worst ministers to ever head the Ministry of Health.

Dr Brighton Chireka
Dr Brighton Chireka

Being a health worker is a calling for most people as their job has a great meaning to the health system and the society at large. Health workers know that everyday they are wanted , expected and needed and if they do not show up things will not go well for their patients. We all know that when health workers are happy they will go above and beyond their call of duty.

Health workers value empathy , openness and feeling safe in their workplace . A supportive culture is needed that allows health workers to be themselves and not to be controlled or criticised unnecessarily. Sadly we have a government and minister that behaves like a bully and wants to exert control and intimidation over the health workers.

Instead of treating its workers as true partners by involving them in continuous discussions about their roles, tasks and working relationship they use force and intimidation. Instead of making it safe enough for health workers to speak openly about their traumatic experiences at work they apply bully tactics of firing any health worker who does not agree with them.

Instead of making sure that our health workers have all the equipment they need to get their job done , they are busy globetrotting and getting treatment in foreign countries. Instead of addressing the grievances of doctors we have a minister who is offering them free sadza.

There is a self enforced pressure to microwave doctors by forcing the final year medical students to sit exams when they did not receive adequate training due to mishandling of the grievances of doctors by the government.

Our hardworking students enter into medical school as bright , full of zeal, passion and a desire to make a difference and save lives. However by the time they finish their internship only a few are still committed. Majority lose commitment , sense of purpose and sadly the enthusiasm with which they started their medical training.

Majority are just physically presenting themselves at work but not their spirit . No matter how good one is if the system is toxic , uncaring , oppressive , corrupt , intimidatory and ill funded, the good doctor will be affected. Why do we allow a system that seeks to convert our kind caring health professionals to become the opposite?

Talking to most health workers in zimbabwe I found quite a number that are exhausted , cynic and detached from their job . They feel ineffective and failure to accomplish anything such as delivering a live baby. It is a traumatic experience to witness patients dying from preventable causes.

It is my humble appeal to the powers that be, not to treat these doctors like slaves , but to treat them like real people.

Engage them fully so that they are able to harness their full selves to their work. Provide them with all the resources they need to get their job done. A committed and compassionate government will engage in activities that attract ,develop and retain these health workers.

We want our doctors back in our hospitals now , no ifs no buts we need our doctors back !

To the rest of Zimbabweans I am shocked to say the least by your silence when your loved ones are suffering and dying in our empty hospitals. Anyone with a heart or conscience in the Ministry of Health must resign and not preside over this carnage of our people in our hospitals.

Dr Brighton Chireka is an International Health Consultant, GP Partner & Clinical lead of SKC CCG. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management. Dr Chireka is the Founding Chairperson of Zimbabwean Diaspora Health Alliance (ZDHA) and also a Founder Trustee of CC Foundation in Zimbabwe which offers scholarships to students from deprived backgrounds.