Zimbabwe’s state doctors at the country’s major hospitals have downed tools over low salaries and poor working conditions, union leader said on Wednesday.
“Our doctors did not go to work,” said Edgar Munatsi, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) in a brief text message before sending a detailed statement later indicating an impasse over a labour dispute with the government over the welfare of state doctors.
A survey indicated that most doctors at Parirenyatwa Hospital, the major referral health facility centre in the country, did not go to work while others elsewhere awaited direction from union leaders who were in marathon meetings on Wednesday.
But union leaders declared a stalemate less than 24 hours after Health and Child Welfare Minister, David Parirenyatwa, was quoted in the media saying cabinet on Tuesday had agreed to address some of their concerns, top among them the recruitment of junior doctors due to complete internship in two weeks’ time.
The minister also said the government would be putting in place a facility for the importation of vehicles for health workers free of duty, another major demand of the disgruntled doctors.
But Munatsi insisted there was an impasse, saying the government had failed to address their major concerns. He said the strike was anchored on “the unpalatable inability” by the ministry of health to resolve the major issues raised by the state doctors, particularly 120 trained doctors who would be out of work in the next two weeks, low salaries and allocation of vehicles.
He charged that Parirenyatwa’s notice to the effect that posts would be created to accommodate the 120 doctors fell short of clarifying when the post would be availed, adding that the proposed dates for resolving the on call allowances and duty free facility for vehicles “are not an accurate reflection of both the urgency which this matter deserves and the time for which they have been outstanding”.
State doctors are currently earning $1.20 per hour as on call allowances but are demanding $720 per month with immediate effect.
Parirenyatwa could not immediately comment as officials said he was in meetings.
But the main opposition MDC-T added its weight on the impasse, with Morgan Tsvangirai’s secretary for secretary of health, Dr Ruth Labode, telling News24 that the crisis in Zimbabwe’s health sector was not surprising.
“The doctors are justified because they are under paid and working in institutions that are poorly equipped,” said Labode, who served for several years as the Provincial Medical Doctor for the Matabeleland North region.
Union leaders expect a full-blown strike as the week’s progresses unless the government gives in to their major demands.