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DRC Doctors Resume Work Friday

VOA News - August 22, 2008

Clottey Interview With DR. Mbwebwe Kabamba - Download (MP3) audio clip
Clottey Interview With DR. Mbwebwe Kabamba - Listen (MP3) audio clip

Doctors in the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to resume work today (Friday) after President Joseph Kabila's government signed an agreement promising to address their concerns. The doctors embarked on an indefinite strike action to press home their demands for better pay urging the government to improve the country's deteriorating medical infrastructure. The doctors say although they are returning to work, they are skeptical the government would abide by its promise. Doctors Mbwebwe Kabamba is a physician in the capital, Kinshasa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that the doctors are fed up with what he described as President Kabila government's lackadaisical attitude towards the well fair of the country's doctors.

"We are getting together with the other doctors to discuss all these issues, and we are likely to start to resume work today (Friday) simply because there are some promises that have been done by the government. And there is a contract that has been signed between our unions and government members and it foes to some extend positive way according to our understanding about that," Kabamba pointed out.

He said the doctors want the government to address their remuneration and the deteriorating medical infrastructure in the country.         

"It is dealing with salaries problems. We have many problems we have infrastructural problems in our state hospitals. We have a problem with our personnel and it is a link to the social problems and we have problems with our patients who are very poor people and when they come to the hospital they don't have enough money to afford paying the fees and so on, but for the time being we are tackling the problem of salaries," he said.

Kabamba said it was about time the government addressed doctors' remuneration.

"If this problem has been tackled before. Six months ago, we were in a general strike at the time from December 2007 to January 2008 for the same salary problem and the government promised at that time that in six months time, it was going to re-adjust the salaries of state medical doctors, but we realized that after six months they government didn't do anything.  But this time they signed a document promising that they will reach the requirement of all the doctors. So we decided to resume work today and wait for this (agreement) to be implemented," Kabamba noted.

He said although the doctors have agreed in principle to return to work today, they are skeptical about the government willingness to abide by the agreement.

"I personally don't rely on that government. This is not the first time they are promising things. University professors had the same bad game, they (government) promised to increase their salaries and it was exactly the same thing after the time that they promised they (professors) realized that the government failed to live up to its word. This is the same problems with many professional groups although there is a document that has been signed with our unions, I'm still skeptical," he said.

Kabamba said the doctors would continue to provide services as long as the government abides by its promises.

"If they abide by that we certainly will work. We have other aspects for instance the infrastructure in al state hospitals is totally destroyed. So, this is another issue that we are going to tackle and for the time being we are earning at shallow salaries, which is chicken feed. We need to make good ends meat," Kabamba pointed out.

The doctors have turned away patients because of a doctors' strike that has paralyzed a health-care system already seen as one of the worlds worst. The two-week work stoppage over low pay began in the teeming capital Kinshasa on Monday and quickly spread to cities across the vast nation of 60-million people where war, chaos and neglect have halted virtually all public services.

Meanwhile, during previous strikes, doctors have provided a minimum level of service. But after the government failed to follow through on promises it made to end a previous strike in January, they have vowed to stay away this time.

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