Doctors meet over assaults at hospitals

Tuesday March 29 2016

The Minister for Health, Community Development,

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, Ms Ummy Mwalimu. PHOTO | FILE 

By Syriacus Buguzi

Dar es Salaam. Doctors from various hospitals in Dar es Salaam met yesterday and sounded the alarm over increased attacks on health workers at their duty stations.

They convened an emergency meeting at the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (Muhas) and condemned the spate of attacks on their colleagues by relatives of patients at hospitals in upcountry regions.

The attacks appear to have coincided with the government’s crackdown on dishonest and corrupt health workers at public hospitals.

Doctors are now complaining that patients and their relatives are grossly violating hospital procedures to the extent of assaulting health workers whenever they feel they have not received proper care.

The reaction was triggered by the latest incident at Ligula Hospital in Mtwara Region, where Dr Dickson Sahini was beaten last weekend by relatives of a patient after referring him to Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) in Dar es Salaam.

Dr Sahini said he referred the patient to MNH after initial diagnosis showed that he had suffered multiple leg fractures in a motorcycle accident, adding that the case was too complicated for the regional hospital.

Angered by the incident, doctors at the hospital went on a go-slow, but Mtwara Regional Commissioner Halima Dendego said yesterday that services at the facility  had returned to normal.

The Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, told The Citizen yesterday that she would issue a statement today.

“I condemn this habit of people taking the law into their own hands and assaulting health workers, particularly doctors and nurses. Tomorrow (today) I will issue an official statement on the matter,” she said.

She said regional authorities in Mtwara were working with police to identify the culprits in last weekend’s incident and bring them to justice.

One of the medics who met yesterday, Dr Daudi Mshana from MNH, told The Citizen that doctors were now looking into ways of addressing growing animosity between them and the public.

Dr Mshana said he and his colleagues were signing a petition to condemn what he said was harassment of health workers.

He added that doctors had resolved to sign the petition after the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT) showed a reluctance to voice concern on behalf of its members.

Doctors at some upcountry hospitals have been living in fear in recent weeks following attacks on health workers by relatives of patients who were purportedly not satisfied with the way the doctors handled their kin.

Earlier this month, irate villagers threatened to lynch a clinical officer at Kapalamsenga Dispensary in  Mpanda District after a pregnant woman died as she was being referred to another facility for treatment.

Members of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) intervened and rescued the doctor, who had been accused of deliberately delaying attending to the expectant mother, leading to her death.

MAT recently filed an official protest with the Health ministry following an upsurge in attacks on doctors, but no official statement has been issued by the government.

Doctors across the country have criticised MAT for its perceived reluctance to defend medics  who have complained about what they claim is mistreatment by some government officials.

Earlier this month, doctors at Butimba District Hospital in Mwanza Region went on strike after some of their colleagues were suspended by the then regional commissioner, Mr Magesa Mulongo, following the death of twins at the facility.

Mr Mulongo suspended five health workers, accusing them of professional misconduct, but the RC’s decision has been strongly criticised by medics who spoke to The Citizen.

A MAT member, Dr Godbless Charles from Mwanza Region, has volunteered to assist “mistreated” health workers seek legal redress.

 He said he was also ready to help them challenge the government’s recent directives instructing the Medical Council of Tanganyika (MCT) on how to handle errant doctors.