Disgruntled doctors on Go Slow over unpaid wages
The toxic relationship between government and medical doctors turned lethal this week, putting patients’ lives at risk as Botswana Doctors Union (BDU) mobilised its members to commence a nationwide ‘go slow’ after a failed promise to meet their wage demands.
The disgruntled doctors on Wednesday went on the nationwide strike and decided to stop attending to patients outside their working hours until they are fully paid their Emergency Call Allowances.
The dispute emanates from a demand by doctors to be paid the allowance saying they have long been exploited, and that the problem got worse during the COVID19 Pandemic when some of them could go for 10 days without any rest.
BDU Chairperson, Dr Kefilwe Selema said doctors feel cheated after government failed to honour its promise to pay outstanding arrears.
Dr Selema said they were still waiting for the government to engage them saying their last fruitful engagement was three months ago. He confirmed that BDU members will only be working their normal working hours and not attending to emergencies outside normal time.
After doctors threatened to down tools early this year, the Government and BDU agreed at a meeting held in Gaborone on April 5th, 2023, that the doctors would get their 15 percent Emergency Call allowance dating back to September 2022 and that the allowance arrears was to be paid in May 2023.
The parties also agreed to revert back to the pre April 2023 situation, but the doctors accepted the 15 percent allowance on condition that by July 31st 2023, the parties should have met and concluded a review of the Doctors Emergency Call Policy; Doctors Emergency Call duty contract; and doctors call duty Roster for rest days at health facilities.
However, Dr Selema said many of the promises have not been fulfilled and that the 15 percent only covers one call out of seven.
For the better part of Wednesday this week, senior officials at the Ministry of Health were locked up in meetings trying to come up with solutions to cushion the effect of the downing of tools, including sending trained doctors into the wards or even seeking the intervention of the army medical personnel.
There are suggestions that the ministry may engage BDF personnel if the situation gets out of control in due course.
Dr Selema added that the downing of tools will take effect across all government facilities and will go on until the government comes up with an offer. However, the intern doctors will continue to work since they are regulated by their training institutions.
By press time on Wednesday the ministry had not responded to a Tuesday press release issued by BDU stating their position after the lapse of an interim agreement on July 31st, 2023.
Contacted for comment, Chief spokesperson at the Ministry of Health, Dr Christopher Nyanga said he was on official trip to Francistown but was aware of the BDU press release and requested some time to gather information around the matter.
“At this point I do not have any details to share with you, but I will definitely be helpful after I have gathered more information for you,” he said.
Efforts to get comments from both Minister Dr Edwin Dikoloti and his assistant, Sethomo Lelatisitswe drew a blank.