Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Crime Behind the Lira Medical Workers’ Industrial Action

Albert Einstein, a popular Philosopher Scientist, once said; “only a lived life for others is worth living.”

I am coming back to post here ahead of schedule because of something tragic that happened in the Northern part of Uganda!! It attracted little or no media attention compared to the Land Bill, and the cheap political squabbles.

Apparently, 15 patients died in a Lira hospital as a result of a medical workers’ industrial action over unpaid allowances. Why 15 people had to die, under the perceived care of medical workers, is beyond my feeble understanding!

We join the health care field because most of us hold this deep and personal connection to caring for others. Health care professionals are an embodiment of not only the core values of “caring” but of patient advocacy, collaboration, and accountability.

It is true that there have been numerous medical workers’ strike actions before. The difference is that most of these strikes were carried out in a proficient manner that did not compromise the quality of life and indeed the interests of the patients.

If these heath care professionals had no option but to strike they should have been entirely certain that delegated care was not only professional and competent, but also adequately set in order to uphold the concept of continuous care. And why their union activism did not express their dissatisfaction through advocacy prior to this industrial action, bothers me!

In whatever way you prefer to look at this tragedy, the fact remains that reducing patients into objects of negotiation is a violation of patient rights. In this regard, Lira hospital medical workers appear to have neglected their professed duty of care resulting into deaths and therefore, should face criminal charges (willful criminal negligence, second degree murder et al.) as a result.

By this action, the Lira hospital doctors that participated, whilst neglecting to provide continuity through alternative care, violated the first dictum of medicine: primum, non nocere (translated as: “First, do no harm") and the Hippocratic Oath. What a shame!!

My endless whining about the grotesqueness of the unprofessional behavior of these few bad apples does not negate my belief in industrial action as an effective bargaining tool in the labor market, so long as the actual needs (human life protection and preservation) are respected and put ahead of potential future benefits.

Meanwhile, I pray that somebody is held accountable for these crimes committed at the Lira Regional Referral Hospital.