Whinsley Masara, Chronicle Reporter
DOCTORS at central hospitals yesterday went on strike accusing the Government of failing to improve their conditions of service.
The doctors accuse the Health and Child Care Ministry of taking a “lipstick approach” to their issues.
In a statement, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) president Dr Edgar Munatsi yesterday said a majority of doctors, from the consultant level to new JRMOs (junior resident medical officers) downed tools countrywide.
He said: “There was an overwhelming response from Government doctors across the country. Central hospitals such as Mpilo, Parirenyatwa and Harare hospital today literally closed their Outpatients Department and cancelled emergencies. The ZHDA deployed a few doctors in casualty and emergency department to cover for emergency cases.”
Dr Munatsi said the response by the ZHDA membership countrywide is a signal of the strong message that should there be no meaningful concessions from the employer on the three main sticking issues, post internship employment, on call allowance and duty free motor vehicle importation facility, service delivery is likely to further deteriorate as Government doctors at District and provincial hospitals are joining in today.
It further read: “The ZHDA today (yesterday) has also resolved to launch a legal battle for the release of Open Practising Certificates (OPCs). An urgent High Court order will be filed on Monday. The ZHDA is also considering approaching the office of the President and Cabinet for a meeting to seek intervention on these issues.”
The ZHDA said it was puzzling that the Government was not 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 universities and are basically donating their tiny salaries to fees,” read the statement.
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 OPCs upon completion of the internship. They also want on-call allowances to be reviewed upwards to a minimum of $720 for the lowest paid doctor from $288.
Ministry of Health and Child Care’s Public Relations Officer, Mr Donald Mujiri said there was partial withdrawal of services by some public hospital doctors.
In a statement, he said: “We note that there has been partial withdrawal of services by some Junior Resident Medical Officers (JRMOs) and Senior Resident Medical Officers (SRMOs) only at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and Mpilo Central Hospital following indication by the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association that they would, among other things, withdraw services until issues they had put on the table are resolved.”
He said Treasury has granted concurrence to 250 posts for doctors who successfully complete their internship.
“The Ministry is urging all doctors to report for duty for the patients’ sake in these difficult times,” said Mr Mujiri.
Mpilo Central Hospital’s clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said 31 doctors had gone on strike as of yesterday.
“We have, however, taken measures to ensure that our hospital operations are stable despite the absence of the 31 doctors. Patients should not panic as we are monitoring the situation to ensure services are delivered fully and efficiently.
“We have senior doctors above the striking doctors’ grade and these are assisting in making sure all patients are attended to. We can assure you that all our hospital departments are operating normally,” said Dr Ngwenya.