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Patients neglected as strike by junior doctors continues

A strike by junior doctors at Tanzania's main national hospital entered a fifth day on Monday, with bed occupancy dropping amid complaints of neglect by patients seeking care.

"I arrived here a day before the strike begun. After going through preliminary checks, which included an X-ray and blood tests, there has been no further attention," a patient said on Sunday.

Medical interns and junior doctors at Muhimbili National Hospital began their strike on Thursday for higher salaries. They want the government to revise their salaries to a minimum of 1.2 million shillings (US $1,100) each per month, and to improve their working conditions.

Government authorities, including the deputy minister for health, Hussein Mwinyi, have, since the strike started, been calling for meetings with the doctors' leaders in efforts to resolve the dispute, which has severely affected service delivery at the referral and university teaching hospital.

On Sunday, female patients in the maternity ward complained that no doctor had attended to them. They said they had only been examined by a few senior nurses.

Bed occupancy at the 1,400-plus bed facility has declined as several patients have been directed to private hospitals while the authorities are reluctant to admit new patients as only senior doctors and consultants are working and have complained of a heavy workload.

"My husband is sick and has been admitted here for the last six days but no one has seen him," Zena Rashidi told reporters at the hospital on Monday. She appealed the government to resolve the issue without delay.

The chairman of the hospital's governing board, Abdulrahaman Kinana, said consultants and senior doctors were struggling to offer services to 822 patients who were, until Sunday afternoon, admitted at the hospital. He added that efforts were being made to resolve the dispute and appealed to the striking doctors to resume work.

A junior doctor, who requested anonymity, said that they were planning street demonstrations to State House to present their case to President Benjamin Mkapa.

"It appears nobody is taking us seriously," the doctor told IRIN.

The latest strike is the third this year medical interns are staging to demand better pay, allowances and improved working conditions.

In June, the interns went on strike for a week and the government sacked them but immediately thereafter rescinded the decision after Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye visited the hospital and declared the crisis to be over, promising to deal with the problems the interns were facing.

On 24 June, Sumaye said the government understood the plight of the interns but had been unable to improve their allowances because of the country's financial difficulties. He appealed for patience, saying the government would attend to the problems "gradually".

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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