Zimbabwean government doctors are bracing to go on a crippling industrial strike on Wednesday, saying their employer is failing to meet their concerns.
The doctors accuse the health and child care ministry of having a “lipstick approach” to their issues, saying the health sector was “pregnant with a multitude of problems emanating from gross negligence and lack of will to implement logical decisions”.
The doctors association, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), said it was puzzling that government was not even employing “well-trained post-internship doctors despite the huge investment in educating these cadres for 20 years”.
“Our doctors, including well-trained consultants, still travel to work on public transport despite the earlier promise to unveil a motor vehicle duty-free facility to the sector. Our doctors, who are furthering their studies, have been left to the gallows of the capital hungry university and are basically donating their tiny salaries to fees,” ZHDA said in a statement.
“These are only but a few of the frustrating examples of how health workers have been neglected, while on the other hand, the responsible authorities swim in bread and butter as their [children] are flying to school.
“The late President (Nelson) Mandela once highlighted that freedom can never be granted by the oppressor, but have to be fought for by the oppressed.”
The doctors said they had made recommendations to the health ministry and the Health Services Board (HSB), describing the challenges they are facing as an “ensuing cancerous destruction of our noble profession”.
“. . . the association wishes to announce that with effect from Wednesday February 15, there shall be a fully-fledged, nation-wide industrial action. All doctors, from the consultant level to our new JRMOs [junior resident medical officers], are advised to take heed of this call,” the doctors association said.
The doctors are demanding that all students who would have finished internship “must never have their contract of employment terminated”, suggesting they would rather be given open practising certificates upon completion of the internship.
They also want on-call allowances to be reviewed upwards to a minimum of US$720 for the lowest paid doctor from the current US$288.
Asked if they would proceed with the strike, ZHDA president Edgar Munatsi responded: “Yes.”
On several occasions last year, the doctors threatened to go on strike over poor salaries, poor working conditions, depleted and demoralised workforce as well as contracts renewal, among other challenges.
HSB executive chairperson Lovemore Mbengeranwa said they were discussing the issue at a board level, adding recommendations had been made.
“The health minister (David Parirenyatwa) will make an announcement soon,” he said.
Parirenyatwa could not be reached for comment.
In the past, he has expressed willingness to meet the doctors and chart a way forward.
Presenting the 2017 US$4 billion national budget last December, finance and economic development minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated US$282 million, down from the previous year of US$331m.
The Abuja Declaration states that governments should allocate a 15 percent vote to the health system, and Zimbabwe is a signatory to the declaration.
– African News Agency