Paidamoyo Chipunza, Harare Bureau
Government has moved to avert possible disruption of services at hospitals by deploying medical professionals from the uniformed forces so that they attend to patients.
Health professionals have been boycotting work since Monday claiming they wanted Government to furnish them with the whereabouts of Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) acting president Dr Peter Magombeyi, who was reported missing at the weekend.
Addressing journalists at Munhumutapa Building in Harare yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said in addition to the medical professionals in the security sector, there were also some doctors who pledged to assist in public health institutions during this time.
“The army are going to give us assistance and there are also some other doctors who have decided to continue providing services,” said Dr Moyo.
He said although the number of medical professionals in the security forces might not satisfy the burden of care in health institutions, patients with critical conditions would be able to get medical attention.
“There is quite a sizeable number from each and every institution, not as much as we would have wanted them to be, but at the moment the information I have is that we have some coverage in our hospitals. So we will keep monitoring,” he said.
Dr Moyo further appealed to the striking doctors to return to work while giving security agencies a chance to investigate circumstances surrounding the missing doctor.
“As I mentioned yesterday (Monday), the matter was taken up by the securocrats and you heard from the securocrats, Minister (Cain) Mathema (Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage) and Minister (Owen) Ncube (Minister of State for National security in the President’s Office), they have given you the assurance on what the situation is and in the meantime we are concerned about service provision.
“I want to, as usual, encourage our workers to come back to work while investigations are taking place,” said Dr Moyo.
In a statement yesterday, the Health Apex announced that its members were also withdrawing their services in solidarity with the claimed missing doctor.
It also said it was suspending Health Services Bipartite Negotiating Panel meetings until their security was guaranteed.
However, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Sekai Nzenza told journalists yesterday that while employees had a right to demonstrate, there were set procedures that are supposed to be followed.
“They have the right to demonstrate, however, there are processes of negotiations that need to be followed because they represent the essential services meaning that we put the lives of patients first.
“So I would encourage them, very strongly, that this is a situation where we must consider the lives of the patients first,” said Minister Nzenza.
Government always makes use of medical professionals from the uniformed forces (army, police and prisons) in cases of crisis mostly posed by striking health workers.
Before the Monday withdrawal of services, doctors through the ZHDA, had expressed their incapacitation to continue reporting for work.
However, most doctors had ignored the call by ZHDA not to report for work as patients continued getting services from all public health institutions.