May 17, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – A large number of hospitals across Sudan were paralyzed as doctors went on strike to protest what they allege as backtracking by the government in fulfilling its promised obligations related to improving pay and work conditions.
- Khartoum Teaching Hospital (Wikimedia)
Physicians working in emergency units were excluded from the strike.
The health ministry was quick to downplay the impact of the strike and organized a tour for media organizations to ascertain that work in hospitals has not been affected.
Former president of the Physicians Committee Ahmad Al-Abwabi said their options are not limited to strikes and warned security agencies against attacking doctors by arresting or beating them up as it happened in the past.
The ministry issued a statement stressing its commitment and interest in professional development and improvement of training for doctors and other medical staff alike.
The Undersecretary for health ministry Essam El-Din Muhammad Abdullah commended sacrifices made by doctors for the sake of patients and alleviating their suffering.
The health official said that the ministry has long been working on improving the working conditions of doctors and workers in the health sector and attributed the success of these endeavors that led to the payment of benefits to all the doctors in the past.
He added that the ministry managed in coordination with the Ministry of Finance to disburse the premium pay for 1,350 doctors and Vice specialists in excess of 2.5 million Sudanese pounds. On top of that the cash in lieu was paid covering until the end of 2011 along with clothing allowance for the current year and the meal allowance until the end of April.
Sudanese doctors have been in constant wrangling with the health ministry since last year claiming they have millions in back wages and also demanded a pay increase as well as improving housing and work environment.
Despite repeated promises to resolve the grievances, doctors claim that the pledges went unfulfilled. The government accused political parties of infiltrating the doctors driven by their own agendas.
On Tuesday, Islamist opposition figure Hassan Al-Turabi told Reuters that Sudanese doctors are working under difficult conditions.
"Look at doctors. They do not make enough to buy a car or a house. They go abroad for work, they work in Saudi Arabia," he said.
Sudan is going through an economic crisis caused by drop in foreign investments and lower oil prices which led to larger budget deficit and acute shortage in foreign exchange reserves.
This year the government approved a set of austerity measures aimed at curtailing spending.