UNEMPLOYED doctors have vowed to continue protesting until government addresses their plight.
Meanwhile, Resident Doctors Association of Zambia president Dr Brian Sampa says government has asked for a three-week long stand down before it can provide concrete feedback and chart a way forward.
On Tuesday, over 100 unemployed doctors gathered at the Ministry of Health headquarters to offer solidarity to their representatives during a stakeholders meeting with government officials in the presence of some unarmed police officers.
Addressing journalists as the meeting was ongoing, the unemployed doctors’ representative Dr Wallace Ndumba said the protests would continue until all the 800 doctors were employed.
“What I want is to be employed, I concentrate on my work in the wards. If at all we are just employed, you will never see me standing here, for what? We did say that the President must intervene. In as far as we are concerned, up to this point, the President has not said anything. So we are optimistic that he is a listening President, after we cry to him, he is going to listen to us and we are yet to hear his statement as well. For now, we don’t know what is going on, it is cloudy, that is why we are still demanding that the government employs all the 800 unemployed doctors at once. Based on their assurances, they told us to say all of you come 2022 January, you will be employed. From there, we had assurances, statements, everything to complicate the matter. We are professionals, when we listen to someone speaking, we are able to analyse and tell what this person is trying to say,” said Dr Ndumba.
“Why we are gathered here is that currently, there is a meeting that is taking place between our association and stakeholders from the Ministry of Health. So basically, we are here to give solidarity to our leadership. So we are waiting for the outcome of that meeting so if the outcome of that meeting is going to satisfy us or meet our demands, then we will end there but if the outcome of the meeting does not meet our demands, we shall proceed as indicated. We shall march to State House because we want to hear from the President himself. Whatever they are doing is their business. For us, we have maintained the position that all the 800 unemployed doctors must be employed because these people have waited much longer and we cannot afford to continue waiting. So that is why we still maintain our position that all the 800 unemployed doctors must be employed. So whatever tactics or gimmicks that are being played, we don’t mind about that, at the end of all the tactics or gimmicks, we want them to tell us to say all the 800 doctors will be employed. The government is supposed to come out sincere to us to say we are going to employ so many doctors,”
And Dr Ndumba rubbished suggestions that unemployed doctors should work as volunteers before they are employed.
“The voluntary mantra is confusion because already, we have been given information to say people are actually paying money to be put on those lists for volunteers because people were told once you volunteer, you are going to be prioritised which is a confusion,” said Dr Ndumba.
Dr Ndumba said their attempt to march to State House was curtailed because police told them they addressed their notification letter to the wrong office at the last minute.
Meanwhile, after the meeting with the ministry ended, Dr Sampa told journalists and fellow protesting doctors that government had asked for three weeks in order for them to prepare an adequate response.
“There will be a retreat, that retreat will last approximately 10 days so that is why they have said three weeks. So after that retreat where they are supposed to go and look at the employment, they asked for a few days for them to harmonise and then they can give us the feedback. So the reason why they asked for that time, the ministry is supposed to look at the numbers, they do all the math and then they forward that side [PSMD]. According to what was forwarded there, they were looking at that without them understanding what was on the ground. Now we presented our case and they now understand what is on the ground so they will better now advise. So they will now advise because those they have access to the President and they have access also to the Secretary to the Treasury so they are the ones who are supposed to deal with all these,” Dr Sampa explained.
“Through PSMD and the service commission, we are so happy that they gave us an audience and we presented to them. They were so understanding and they shared our grievances. They were there to empathise with us and we are looking for better results after three weeks. At this point in time, we are optimistic that something will come up. Even when you are in a meeting, there is a way in which you can read the mood in the meeting. They were so willing to listen to us and they were so happy that certain things which never came out in the other presentations were brought forth and they understand now and they know the picture on the ground. So they promised that they are going to look into it and we trust that those are very understanding people something will be done.”
Dr Sampa insisted that the unemployed doctors were not being selfish.
“Doctors are not being selfish, doctors understand the plight, they know that where they are coming from, their parents, their brothers and sisters need the services of the doctors. As a result, they are fighting for the well-being of the citizenry who are in towns where they cannot afford the other alternatives of health services. Here in Lusaka you can go to a private hospital, you can access a private doctor but when you leave Lusaka, it is rare and very scarce to find a doctor,” said Dr Sampa.