Monday, 2 July 2012
Tanzania doctor strike escalates on torture claims
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters)
- Doctors on Thursday stepped up their strike for better pay at public hospitals across Tanzania in a sign of solidarity with a leader of a medical group who claimed he was kidnapped and tortured by persons unknown.
The high cost of living in Tanzania has stoked anti-government sentiment, leading to mounting pressure from public sector workers and others over the rising cost of living.
Television images showed dozens of medical workers at Tanzania's biggest referral hospital, Muhimbili, singing "solidarity forever," as their leader, Steven Ulimboka, was brought to hospital in an ambulance for treatment.
Ulimboka, chairman of the Medical Association of Tanzania, had called on Friday for a nationwide strike of doctors to demand better pay and working conditions, leaving many patients unattended in state hospitals.
He told reporters he was abducted at gunpoint on Tuesday night by five men and taken to a forest on the outskirts of the commercial capital Dar es Salaam where he was beaten.
There was no immediate independent verification of his account, but authorities promised to investigate his claims.
"We have ordered a swift investigation to unearth the truth," Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told parliament.
Pinda asked military medical staff at the military hospital in Dar es Salaam to treat the many unattended patients.
Doctors on Friday last week launched another round of strikes after talks with the government over pay and conditions collapsed, ignoring a court order to return to work.
Health Minister Hussein Mwinyi said the doctors had rejected a 15 percent pay rise that would have increased their salary to around 950,000 shillings from 860,000 shillings.
The doctors are demanding a salary of 3.5 million shillings.
Doctors had suspended their previous strike in March after the president met their leaders to end the row.
Tanzania's inflation rate fell marginally in May, but still remained in double digits at 18.2 percent.