Auxilia Katongomara Chronicle Reporter
JUNIOR doctors have refused to resume work at the country’s public health institutions, putting the lives of thousands of patients at risk.
Over 60 doctors have petitioned the Health Service Board (HSB) over a recent decision to employ them as contract workers.
The decision has resulted in an acute shortage of health personnel at public hospitals as junior doctors have refused to sign the contracts waiting for a response from the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the HSB.
Sources in the ministry say the hardest-hit are referral hospitals such as Mpilo, United Bulawayo Hospitals, Parirenyatwa, Harare Hospital and Chitungwiza which serve a lot of patients.
The doctors appended their signatures on the petition and still await response from the Ministry and HSB. Those who spoke to The Chronicle said they will not sign the contracts until they are amended as the clauses contained therein violated their rights.
“The contract doesn’t state how much one earns during the period and prohibits us from joining any grouping or trade union so that the government can exploit us,” said the doctors.
They said the situation had forced some hospitals to down-grade second year doctors to perform duties which they were not supposed to undertake.
According to the document titled “Petition against the proposed doctors’ contracts” the junior doctors said they found that their contracts were fraught with irregularities.
“We junior doctors of the class of 2016 are petitioning you to rescind the document presented to us as a “Contract for an Internship Training programme”. After perusing this document we have found it to be grossly flawed as it violates our constitutional rights, labour laws as well as women’s rights,” reads the petition.
Initially, the proposed contract provided government with the right to withhold payment of interns should they fail to report for duty for over a month, or reduce payments depending on the number of days they were absent from work.
“The contract is not clear on salaries, allowances and non-cash incentives yet remuneration is a significant motivator for all employees prospective or otherwise. Section 4.1 of the contract does not state our salary; the salary should be clearly stated and should only be subject to review after agreement between both parties,” reads the petition.
The contract, the junior doctors say, denies female doctors maternity leave if they fall pregnant.
Mpilo Central Hospital, the biggest referral centre in the southern region which is already grappling with shortage of senior doctors had been allocated 18 junior doctors who are all not at work.
Sources at the institution said second year doctors are being overworked due to the shortage.
The health institution’s clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya declined to go into details but said “the situation is under control.”
UBH chief executive officer Nonhlanhla Ndlovu declined to comment referring questions to the HSB.
Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji requested questions in writing but had not responded by the time of going to print.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association president, Dr Fortune Nyamande and HSB board chairman Dr Lovemore Mumbengeranwa were not reachable on their mobile phones.