Our doctors have genuine grievances state cannot ignore

Doctors demonstrate in Nairobi on March 22, 2024. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

A functioning public health system is the best legacy a leader can give a country. It is the precursor to every other form of development.

It is not a cliché when we say a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. When we look up to a country like Singapore as the epitome of economic transformation, we may forget the small detail that it also ranked as one with the best health system.  

As at 2019, Singaporeans ranked as having the longest life expectancy at 81 years for men and 87 for women. 80 per cent of health services in Singapore are offered by public facilities.

The current haggling between our government and doctors is not healthy at all and does not allow us to dream of such; particularly if you consider the 19 issues at play. In earlier days, doctors would be on the streets demanding better terms of service but today they are demanding what has been agreed and signed on paper; then a chance to negotiate further.  

Ideally, it is not far-fetched to say the government is on strike. Having listened to KMPDU officials, it is clear the issue of intern doctors was just the tipping point. Some are easy to deal to deal with like making sure all their statutory deductions are settled with the various agencies. It is also hard to imagine that doctors do not have a comprehensive health cover.

The issues notwithstanding, the last thing that should be allowed is the government taking away benefits and allowances already settled.

For instance, why did the Ministry of Health recommend a 91 per cent in the stipends across all cadres of health workers? Does that mean then, the issues that necessitated those agreements are no longer at play?

Doctors’ training takes an average 7 years. I imagine that, earlier on, even with the lengthy training period one would soldier on knowing chances of employment were high.

Today, doctors complete their internship and go back to tarmacking. In recent years, the saving grace has been the one year paid internship. This allows a doctor to reorganise him/herself and plan for their future in the medical field with substantial income.

Let it not be lost that medicine attracts the cream of our education system and they end up as the best trained and can be accommodated across the world.

With the kind of attitudes being witnessed at the moment, you can bet a good number would consider careers outside the country. Those who do not have such a choice would choose to thrive in private practice or not practise at all.

As the government implements the Universal Health Coverage programme, the human resource bit must not be ignored.

No one wants to be served by an underpaid and overworked doctor or medical personnel.

Quality healthcare is the central factor in any national healthcare plan. That is impossible if simple demands cannot be met and agreements settled.

-The writer is anchor at Radio Maisha