By Kapya Kaoma
The Resident Doctors’ “go slow” at the time the nation is witnessing a rise in new cases of the COVID 19 is irresponsible, immoral, and inhumane. It is like a fire fighter asking for a pay raise when someone’s property is on fire or a police officer asking to have his salary increased when robbers are holding someone’s family hostage. Such actions could be considered criminal. It is unethical and even a crime against humanity for resident doctors to be on “go slow” when the dark clouds of death hang fearfully across the nation. Against all politics, I pray that someone will be held accountable for the deaths which will occur because of this immoral “go slow.”
As bad as the PF government is, medical doctors are essential workers for a reason–they deal with human life. The Hippocratic Oath, “Do No Harm” and the World Medical Association Declaration of Geneva both put emphasis on respect and service of humanity or what we Africans call ubuntu–the realization that “I am because we are.” As medical professionals, doctors acknowledge the autonomy, dignity and sanctity of human life and pledge to respect and protect it with utmost consideration. Their “go slow” in the midst of the pandemic is a betrayal of their Oath and Pledge. Sadly this unethical go slow is doing much damage to the very people who have been on the receiving end of the PF regime. Just as government after government have neglected the poor people for decades, doctors are joyfully watching them die as COVID-19 knocks on their wards which are already “death chambers” due to the low quality healthcare provided in those institutions. Doctors, however, are blaming the PF government for their actions. In normal times, this argument could be made. But we are faced with life-ending pandemic.
Besides, is the “go slow” in the heart of the pandemic serving the greater good for humanity which they pledge to serve? Politically, the PF government is wrong not to honor its commitment to the doctors. But resident doctors are not the only ones letdown; teachers, nurses, civil servants, name them–the list is endless. Opposition politicians are quick to jump on this PF failure in support of doctors, but there is no justification for this immoral action. COVID-19 and other illnesses are nonpartisan and the patients in government hospitals are the poor, the rich go to private hospitals and clinics, some manned by the same resident doctors, while on government payroll. Yet there is another aspect to being a medical doctor–ubuntu, seeing yourself in the suffering of the other person. This is a human sacrifice that money cannot buy; it is something that connects you to me and to another person.
We are a democracy and we have the right to demonstrate and go on Strike. But the resident doctors’ actions cannot be defended in the name of democratic rights. The declaration of the COVID-19 PANDEMIC as the global health emergency resulted in the suspension of certain claims, rights and privileges. I understand medical doctors are not necessarily ethicists to understand the moral implications of such declarations. While intellectual property rights are protected by international law, the emergency meant that other companies were allowed to produce the Vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer. Similarly these drugs were provided at lower costs rather than on market value. African nations have access to these drugs as a result. Likewise, nurses and doctors were entitled to a number of day off per week, but during the pandemic those privileges were taken away. In short, bargaining rights are restricted during a state of emergency.
Resident doctors are mistaken to think that they can use the pandemic to bargain on the lives of innocent people. Medical professionalism means doing everything to save a life. Across the globe, medical doctors camped in wards, came from retirement, and worked without a break to fight COVID-19. Nurses did the same. Some worked without pay; they took the opportunity as a call to duty. It is this human aspect our resident doctors are missing–money cannot buy you a smile; saving a life would. I am not saying that money is not important; it is. But this is the wrong time to talk about money. You have fought this virus and saved so many lives. But why do you want to give up now? You may receive your money, but the morgues would be filled with victims of COVID-19 at your watch and in your name. Ubuntu demands that you see the pain of your patients and treat them as you would love to be treated. As for politicians, please stop playing with human life!
“Do No Harm”