By Hans Ngala, May 14, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – The Syndicate of Medical Doctors in Cameroon better known by its French acronym SYMEC has announced a general sit-in strike starting Monday, May 15.
In a communiqué signed May 5th in French and which the Cameroon Journal got hold of, the President of SYMEC, Dr. Pierre Yves Bassong said health workers in Cameroon will begin a sit-down strike action in the next three months. It shall be in phases. From May 15 to 17, health personnel in Cameroon will commence the strike and in June, another two-day sit-in strike shall be observed from June 12 to 14. Starting July 17 when the next strike is scheduled to kick off, the communiqué states that if nothing is done then to solve the concerns raised by health personnel in the country, the strike action will be indefinite.
Health workers are demanding health insurance allowance. This should be regardless of one’s category so as to reduce the mortality rate in the country. They are also calling for the review of health workers’ salaries for the public service as well as subventions for private health facilities. Besides integrating health workers and the timely treatment of files, health personnel are asking government to review the retirement age, moving it from the current 55 to 65.
The communiqué also states that when the strike goes effective, all appointments and new consultations will be cancelled. Laboratory tests and medical examinations shall all be suspended, though the communiqué makes it clear that the workers will report for work as they observe the sit-in strike.
The decision comes after a meeting that ended in a deadlock with Health Minister, Andre Mama Fouda on January 12, this year. Health workers had called on Government to reduce work load as the average health worker in Cameroon attends to 60 clients.
On April 19, another planned strike was foiled by a press release from the Minister of Health, stating that the Syndicate was not governed by the Labor Code.
It is worth noting that health personnel in Cameroon went on a similar strike in 2015 over what they termed “unbearable working conditions”. Their demands then included state-of-the art medical equipment, more drugs, and action against corruption.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), part of the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) and a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says this about Cameroon’s health landscape; “Cameroon is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having a critical shortage of health personnel. This is further complicated by the geographic distributional inequalities of the national health workforce. This shortfall impedes Cameroons’ progress of improving the human resources for health (HRH)”.