Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point: Debates: African
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
Friday, 14 January, 2000, 13:19 GMT
Should doctors go on strike?

Should doctors go on strike? Doctors going on strike have further undermined Africa's alarming health crises in several countries.

News and Information for Africa
In Ghana, Zimbabwe and now Zambia doctors have gone on strike demanding better pay and better working conditions. But should they be allowed to strike?

What will happen to the thousands who need their help in countries whose health services are already strained?

A selection of your emails will be broadcast on Focus on Africa during the 1705 edition on Saturday.

Your Reaction

The working conditions facing doctors in Africa are not restricted to doctors alone. Almost all professionals in various fields on the continent are working under deplorable conditions. Some primary school teachers conduct classes under trees; university lecturers and researchers have no funds for research; librarians have no money to purchase books and subscribe to journals; farmers till the land and in the end can not get the fertiliser for their crops.

Law enforcement officers have no transport and yet they are supposed to respond to distress calls; engineers in the ministries of transport have no funds to maintain the roads; and many more. All because most African government leaders do not know what it means to rule a country. In the final analysis it is not only doctors who should consider going on strike but each and every individual who feels that the government of the day is cheating the people. Yes Doctors should go on strike!
Justin Chisenga, Namibia

We appreciate that Doctors play an important role in our lives. We however do not agree that they should be going on strike. The situation in Zambia is very worrying because the government and the health authorities create conditions which enable doctors to go on strike.
Goodwell Lungu, Zambia/UK

Doctors should be more concerned with healing the sick and keeping people healthy than about their own circumstances. For doctors to go out on strike would put the health of society at peril as epidemics would ravage populations. President Coolidge once said, "There is no right to strike against the public's safety anywhere and at anytime."
Jeff, U.S.A.

Before going on strike, doctors should request angels to go on holiday too.
Vikki, USA/India

Doctors should never be allowed to strike, they have a commitment to the people to heal them. Sometimes it seems that they are already on strike as it takes two weeks to see a doctor here despite paying insurance for over 50 years. They know what to expect when they take on the job, like the army, they do not strike. I have yet to see a poor doctor.
Dave Wright, England

Personally, I think doctors are like all other 'normal people 'with material needs and wants. Their profession is a special one as others depend on them for life and health. Considering, the academic toil they go through they really deserve some special recognition, especially in Africa even though they are largely educated with state resources. They must not go on strike for obvious reasons. Governments, especially in Africa, must put permanent structures in place to address their 'human needs' in order to eliminate the possibility of them striking.
ILanq, U.S.A

Doctors in African must retain the right to strike, given the rhetoric and lip service attention given to their welfare and that of other professionals. For an African professional, strike action has become the only way to drive a point home. If doctors are not allowed to strike, what other means do they have available for advocating for better working conditions and environment?
If doctors and indeed other professionals are "essential" in Africa, then why aren't they treated as such in as far as the sharing of the meagre resources goes? Doctors and other professionals in Africa are in fact among the most patient and responsible workers and they only resort to strike action when pushed too far.
Anthony Ng'oma, Netherlands (Zambian)

I do not think it is right for doctors to go on strike. Doctors are providing essential services in our communities, moreover in Africa where medical facilities are poor.
Mxolisi Sibanda, South Africa

Why shouldn't they be allowed to strike? Everyone else does it. Doctors are educated men and as such they should be rewarded with a decent salary and working conditions. If they are not permitted to strike and are unable to gain satisfaction they are likely to go abroad and they will be lost forever.
Dr. S, UK

This is one of the African set backs where doctors go on strike while we got brothers and sisters suffering from all types of disease. Doctors are regarded as a national asset therefore they should help the nation before they think of money. If everybody in his /her area of operation went on strike, what will happen? The president strike and his minister or the teachers strike and start demanding money before they hand out the question paper during examination day, what will happen? The defence force strike while there are rebels attack what will happen? I will never ever regard a strike as solution to problem in every ways of life therefore it should be condemned. African doctors should stop practising this otherwise this will be a second African killer disease.
Junias Kalimbo, Namibia

This is a tough call. Doctors take oath to serve humanity including their enemies. However, for them to offer the service they are sworn to provide, they must not only be provided the tools to provide this service but give them the re-numeration commensurate to their service.
After many years of hard study under difficult circumstances, these Doctors sacrifice to go back home and serve their people only to be dictated to by politicians who can hardly spell their names. If the constitution of African countries (even though not practised) guarantee its citizens to freedom of choice and this include Doctors, the Doctors then have the right to strike.
Cillaty Daboh, Sierra Leone via USA

I understand that it is a sad thing to think of a doctor going on strike. Doctors have been known as those who help the sick and will do anything to see their patients healed. They are to be committed to their profession which is really a calling. This calling requires sacrifice.
By not paying them good salaries and not giving them working conditions that are justifiably theirs, the doctors tend to be frustrated. This frustration leads to industrial actions like strikes. If nations have the resources to look after their doctors they should look after them well. We can not force them to sacrifice where there is no need to sacrifice their families and their lives to poverty.
Those responsible for their working conditions should not take advantage of them. I think teachers and doctors play a very important role in society. They help shape nations. I wish they would not have to go as far as striking, because someone listens to them.
Bernard Mukwavi, Canada

While I sympathise with the masses of people in the developing country who will suffer due to doctor's strike. One must point out that Africa is one of the few continents in the world where doctors welfare and contribution to society are not highly regarded. Where else in the world will you find doctors doing part time work, like a taxi driver, just to survive. Africa must begin to put its priorities in order. Doctors and teachers must be well compensated for they build the soul and vigour of future generations. Olu Akinosho New York N.Y.
Olu Akinosho, Nigeria Via New York

I think doctors' shouldn't go on strike for the best interest of the people. They should talk with the government officials or find another alternative way to prevent the problem. We Africans have never been lucky with good government and the only hope we have left to improve our poor health is with doctors.
ameha walelgne, ethiopia

As a matter of professional ethics, doctors should not go on strike but the case in most parts of Africa it is a Catch 22 situation hence, the strike actions are justified. On one hand, these doctors stay months on end without their meagre salaries and allowances which they need direly to feed and support their families. On the other hand, they are left to work under the most deplorable of conditions when the very basic paraphernalia are not made available to them to carry out their needed operations/work, such as is the case in Zambia. Ironically and to compound their anger more, they inexplicably see in broad daylight the same presidents who urge them to sacrifice for their poor nations; purchase presidential jets and motorcades or refurbish their already palatial mansions, albeit, those projects can be stalled for a later date. So in all fairness to them, most of the doctors' strikes are necessary in other to bring corrupt African leaders to come to grips/terms with the realities of their already shattered economies and prioritise the needs of the people. In short, first things first and the health sector certainly does not belong to the back burner in this equation.
OB Silla, Gambian in USA

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

More African debates
Ivory Coast Coup: Your advice for General Guei
Can Islam and Christianity live side by side?
Should Africa tolerate the brain drain?
Should there be one official African lingua franca?
Are elections a waste of time?
Is Jonas Savimbi to blame for all of Angola's ills?"
How would you end the war in Congo?
Is the Commonwealth a pointless talking shop?
Is secession the answer to Africa's minority struggles?
Does Africa need its kings and chiefs?
Is Nelson Mandela the greatest leader the world has known?
Sierra Leone - time to forgive and forget?

Links to other African stories