DRC: Health crisis looms as doctors' strike continues

from The New Humanitarian
Published on 22 Aug 2008
KINSHASA, 22 August 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of patients in health care centres in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital Kinshasa are being deprived of urgent medical care after a strike by doctors and health workers entered its fifth day.

"We are afraid because the doctors who have people's lives in their hands are not there," said Faustin Badiaumu, whose sister was in the intensive care unit at Kinshasa General Hospital.

"My sister is in a critical condition after an operation," Badiamu said. "We are very worried because she is not getting appropriate treatment."

"There is no doctor here," Hortense Ikota, head nurse in charge of emergencies at the hospital said. "We do not know what to do."

Kambamba Mbwebe, a doctor in the 2000-bed hospital, said the doctors had to strike "so they could be heard".

According to Mbwebe, doctors want the government to issue pay rises and various administrative changes to the health sector. Mbwebe said doctors were earning just US$200-400 a month, leaving many struggling to pay rents, and some facing eviction from their homes.

"It's unacceptable that ministers, government officials and members of parliament earn more than $4,000, buy new cars while we [doctors] suffer," he said.

The Kinshasa General Hospital registers over 3,000 consultations daily with 2,000 sick people being admitted.

The government, meanwhile, claims to have responded to the doctors' demands.

"We did not ignore any of the doctors' claims. Quite to the contrary, many of the issues were resolved between January and August 2008," Makwenge Kaput, the minister for health, said, explaining that unpaid bonuses had been paid and salaries raised.

The government was also looking at solutions to stop the strike, which had spread to other health centres across the country.