Battle of Salaries: A Doctor's Rights
Physicians in over 25 cities in Sudan have gone on a week-long strike starting today Tuesday, to pressure the government into improving their working conditions, after the ministry of health failed to pay them their two-year pending incentives and guarantee a better environment, says a memorandum published on a Sudanese website.
The government labeled their strike as illegal and President Omar Hassan Al Bashir has threatened through government-owned media organs to dismiss all strikers and have their late financial offs paid immediately.
Doctors have gone on strike in Khatoum, Medani, Sennar, and Port Sudan. They are raising the same demands for improved working conditions and salaries.
Yesterday’s strike is considered the longest since the beginning of the recent crisis last February. Physicians on strike are on partial duty and are declaring their stance by attaching pieces of papers to their white coats indicating in Arabic that they are “strikers working on emergency” to fill the gap in emergency units. Strikes are fueled by medical general practitioners and registrars who are suffering from underpayment and overwork. Their net salaries range between $300 and $400 at the best.
Doctors’ demands are betterment of work environment, payment of their arrears, and raising salaries. The situation tends to be politicized and harsh actions may be taken. Registrar Nahid Mohamed Al Hassan, who is in her early thirties and the head of the committee in charge of striking, has started an open hunger strike following the president’s threats of dismissal today.
She has justified the decision in a YouTube video shot this evening, remarking, “having taken the Hippocratic historical oath swearing to practice medicine ethically and to help people in need, I decided to strike till having our problem solved or die.”
She also shed light on the way female doctors are treated by adding that a group of pre-government physicians entered the place where strikers had gathered yesterday and one of them slapped one of the doctors on her cheek during an argument, underscoring the fact that that physicians are threatened with physical harm.
It is worth mentioning that the right to strike is guaranteed and legalized by the constitution.
The majority of striking doctors work in state hospitals where conditions are deteriorating and emergency services are usually not free of cost.
Doctor Sayid Qanat wrote on a Sudanese website that this crisis dates back to 2001 and continued throughout 2003 and 2004 when commissions were formed and the Ministry of Health acknowledged doctors’ rights and gave empty promises to resolve complaints. A March 13 statement distributed by the Committee for Doctors’ Strike at the beginning of this week, a statement of which World Pulse received a copy, explained the reasons behind their decision to strike.
The statement said that the committee had submitted a memorandum asking for an improvement of working conditions and an increase in what it called “shameful salaries” to the head of the state on February 17. The statement went on explaining the dimension of the crisis and accusing the Ministry of Health of procrastination, adding that doctors raised their demands on 17 January 2010 to Al Bahsir, who ordered Federal Ministry of Health to study the problem and provide suitable resolutions not later than February 28 .
The statement added that although given delay till March 7 to fully solve the problem, the Ministry did not even specify a time frame for fully solving the problem and sparing the country health risks.
According to Suan Watch (March 7, 2009), Darfuri doctors were fired by the “State for striking to improve food and working conditions.”
Pulse Wire will be closely following the situation in Sudan for more details on this crisis.