Maputo, 16 Aug (AIM) – Mozambique’s Deputy Minister of State Administration, Inocencio Impissa, warned on Tuesday that doctors currently on strike, who have only been given provisional appointments in the public health service, could be dismissed “for poor performance”.
Speaking to reporters in Maputo after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), Impissa said that 80 of the striking doctors have only been appointed to the public hospitals provisionally. They thus had “a fragile tie to the state”, making it easier for the state to sack them.
Impissa added that that the government has carried out its promise to hire 60 new doctors and is currently placing them in some of the country’s health units. He claimed that their task was not to replace the strikers, and that they would have been hired regardless of the strike.
Impissa said that the main dispute between the strikers and the government concerned overtime payments. The doctors, he claimed, want overtime pay four times higher than that paid in any other sector of activity.
Even if it wanted to, the government could not meet this demand because it is illegal, Impissa said. The demand derives from a government decree of 2013: but that decree was never implemented, precisely because a discriminatory system of overtime pay would have been illegal.
Meanwhile, the Order of Doctors, the professional body to which all Mozambican doctors are obliged to belong, has warned that the impact of the strike on the country’s hospitals is “very serious”.
The Order’s chairperson, Gilberto Manhica, cited by the independent television station STV, has claimed that the strikers are being replaced by unqualified staff, and that the trained doctors still working are reaching the point of exhaustion.
He said that the resources needed for the effective exercise of the medical profession are deteriorating, and blamed this on a combination of corruption and a lack of investment.
Manhica noted that Mozambican doctors are badly paid in comparison with their counterparts in other countries. “In some countries, the annual average income of a doctor is equivalent to that of a member of parliament”, he said. “We are not asking for anywhere near as much, but we are asking for a space where doctors can live decently, as happens, for example, with doctors hired by international cooperation agencies. They are not treated in the same way”.
There is also an absolute shortage of doctors. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a ratio of one doctor per 10,000 inhabitants”, said Manhica. “But we only have 0.8 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants”.