When we conceive of a legitimately structured governance system operating in a given country anywhere in the world, no government can ever be assumed to stand out richer than its very people. The truth is that a government of the poor is, often times, poor itself.
To the abominable dismay of our conscience, Motherland Ethiopia remains one of the poverty-stricken countries on earth regardless of its huge and untapped resources of multiple formations. So is its government with a scanty and meagre revenue to be generated from the economic effort of its destitute citizenry.
Due to the level of our sluggish economy, the quality of life which we do claim to experience is dismally low and has been deteriorating by the day. Understandably, each and every passing day, far too many compatriots in dire need go to bed hungry and thirsty. Food, medicine, shelter, energy, clean potable water and other basic necessities are in short supply. Worse, a large proportion of our masses have, since recent times, been displaced from their original habitual areas due to both the man-made evictions and natural calamities.
It is amid this overwhelmingly rocky domestic context that we have, to our astonishment, witnessed the recent outcry by our graduating and intern medical practitioners, largely in the public sector for a dramatic and excessive increase in pay and related benefits, among others. It was quite astounding to gaze at them taking to the streets in Addis Ababa and other major cities publicly threatening to go on strike and quit their essential duties unless the scores of their demands are addressed and met instantly.
While been hosted and addressed by the Prime Minister earlier on May 5, 2019 at his office to air out and discuss with him their outstanding complaints, quite a good number of medical personnel had lamented that they be taken seriously by the government and its people to the extent of being rewarded with a heavy salary boost in addition to a dozen of other fringe benefits, including medical insurance, housing allowance etc. In that historical gathering, which had involved hundreds of senior and junior health professionals, it was pretty troubling to listen to a number of their endless-looking series of grievances such as poor pay, inadequate attention to and alleged neglect for their plight on the part of the community seeking for the service, adverse condition of work, absence of appropriate facilities, lack of vital supplies such as medicines and amenities in the health institutions of their deployment.
One of the most embarrassing and hypocritical banners that was carried by a group of health professionals during a peaceful demonstration in the town of Debre Markos (Amhara Regional State) reads: “A nation which fails to honor her healers deserves no due respect”.
By this offensive and scornful remark, I am not sure if they had meant what they said from heart. Definitely, this is a far-fetched overamplification of the dignified profession, in my view.
As an elementary school along with its destitute teachers in a rural neighborhood of a remote village in the country is no less important than a given primary healthcare center with its junior health professionals, what makes the latter extra ordinarily unique and distinct, in principle, from their counterparts in the education sector, for instance?
After all, isn’t this a freely educated human resource luckily promoted to the ladder with a view to serving the community from which it originates with modest returns to support its mainstay to survive at best?
Regardless of its invaluable instrumentality as a qualified means of expressing one’s highest level of dissatisfaction with an existing status-quo, the right to strike is not something to be enjoyed as of right when it comes to essential public services such as medical care and the provision of public utilities like electricity and potable water supply as provided for even under Art. 136 Sub.-Art. (1) e. and Sub.-Art. (5) of the country’s Labor Proclamation No. 377/2003 (as amended). Moreover, Art. 66. Sub-Art. (9) of the Federal Public Servants’ Proclamation No. 1064/2017 stipulates that “a civil servant may Not engage in any activity likely to compromise his service to the government institution or otherwise conflict with his public duties or is incompatible with his status as a civil servant”.
On this account, the duty to provide medical care and other related health services is governed by strict ethical rules and norms of conduct pertaining to the health profession. It follows from this that failing your patients waiting for your priceless service by denying your helping hands at the time of their dire need would, not only be inappropriate or unethical in the eyes of the profession, but also amount to unacceptable behavior which may also entail legal liability at worst.
Caution be made here, though, that this writer does, by no means, rudely suggest or take a stubborn stand on the pressing issue whether or not health workers are entitled to protest and thereby react to any frustration possibly caused to them in relation to their conditions of work or any benefits scheme attached therewith at all. Nevertheless, they are not welcome to exercise it at the expense of the safety and well-being of their patients in dire need of their continuing attendance and treatment. Any arbitrary termination of duty even on a temporary basis or a threat thereof contrary to this noble behavior would simply constitute an inexcusable misconduct of betraying your clients.
Thus, it is quite critical that my fellow countrymen and women who have found themselves somewhere in the medical profession to their like or dislike need to keep in mind one important consideration before they embark on a disruptive strike as and when they warm up to move to the city squares in an effort to showcase their grievances.
No matter how fundamental it might look, every single right needs to be exercised with a corresponding duty if it is not to be invoked and exploited in an otherwise irresponsible and abusive manner. Coupled with that, unrealistic expectations produce no tangible results.
Ed.’s Note: Merhatsidk Mekonnen Abayneh is a senior expert in law and peace and security studies. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].
Contributed by Merhatsidk Mekonnen Abayneh