The strike by health workers is most certainly unhealthy more so that the goal posts are now changing by the day thereby antagonising even those who may have had some sympathy with the nurses and medics in general.
It is very clear that the discrepancy in earnings have been magnified by the recent discovery by professionals that the lower paid employees have been awarded a much higher percentage increase to bring them near the comparative wages of professionals.
That is why the goal posts have now changed with demands for either 100 per cent wage increase or increase in night allowance and indeed overall increase in order to recognize and establish the wage differentias between professional and non-professional.
At this point we agree with Minister of Health Dr Kasonde that the new wage demands are untenable and can only be dealt with in a new session where the various grievances can be tabled and the government as employer will be accorded an opportunity to rebut demand, and where agreeable seek funding for any subsequent increase.
Indeed, the medics may have a very good case because their education and professional work exposes them to long hours, health risks and above all a touch that is beyond the call of duty. For this they should be adequately compensated and indeed recurrent differential does not indicate an appreciation of this reality.
Our view, however, is that innocent patients should not be made to suffer for industrial matters that can be adequately resolved through dialogue and negotiations. There is no question that medics enjoyed far superior remuneration before the current round of wage increases. The government singled them out in recognition of the very reasons that they were performing onerous reasons for which they needed to be rewarded.
They were satisfied with the increase just as others felt discriminated against. The tables have now turned and it is only fair that the government as an employer is given an opportunity to study and evaluate the situation in order to make an informed decision.There is no reason why patients should suffer. The University Teaching Hospital (UTH) is a sorry sight. Some wards have been closed down while the remaining ones are in pathetic condition as student nurses are unable to cope with the load created by the absence of qualified staff.
This need not be the case.