It finally happened. We had a few scares over the past eighteen months, but yesterday a province-wide taxi strike resulted in more than half of the doctors at my hospital not being able to go to work.
At first we thought it would be like the other protests: wait an hour or so and the protestors would get bored and leave. But they didn’t, and they brought most of our city to a standstill as employees could not get to work (taxis are the biggest form of public transport here), and those in private vehicles were threatened – in some instances even harmed.
So we sat at home, nervously chatting on our Whatsapp groups, waiting for updates.
One might think the day “off” was welcomed but we were all on edge. It’s just not that fun when you are healthy and ready to work, but cannot because protestors have threatened bodily harm should you do so.
You think about the children who will arrive dehydrated and wheezing, and who will need doctors. And you wonder if they will even get to hospital, or die waiting for treatment on the other side of the protest-line.
Some doctors were escorted into hospital by the police (ICU doctors and those on-call), but the aggression encountered was so intense that it was decided not to take any more staff through. This meant that the hospital functioned on skeleton staff, with most of the nursing personnel also unable to reach work, and no pharmacists who made it through either. Subsequently, the skeleton staff also functioned with only emergency drugs.
It boggles my mind that while doctors are not allowed to down tools, individuals who deliberately and forcefully block our way to work are not held accountable for obstructing an essential service. How is obstructing access to healthcare anything less than attempted homicide?
It is just more proof of a country that has no regard for its sick and destitute.
It also boggles my mind that unarmed students who protested for their education last year were shot at and exposed to tear gas, while these violent protestors were allowed to cause such havoc and harm to their own communities.
Where is the justice in this? I will always support the right to protest, and even agree that sometimes a little inconvenience is the best way to be heard, but this? This is no mere inconvenience.
I am dismayed. I feel hopeless. Because I have learned that a peaceful student protest will be met with more animosity than armed taxi drivers; and the right to a taxi permit is prioritized above the right of a sick person to get to hospital.