Andile Tshuma in Bulawayo/Paidamoyo Chipunza in Harare
GOVERNMENT and doctors’ representatives are set to meet today in Harare for a crunch indaba in a bid to bring to an end a month-long strike by junior doctors.
Speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association Secretary General Dr Anele Bhebhe said all was set for today’s meeting.
“We will have a bi-party negotiation panel tomorrow (today). The delegation will be comprised of the Health Service Board (HSB), representatives of the Treasury, the Apex board, pharmacies and different representatives of various health care workers and also the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, “he said.
“We are going to talk about our conditions of service for hospital doctors and other health practitioners and we hope that our grievances will be heard. Addressing these issues has been prolonged unnecessarily and we fully understand that people are suffering. However, we also need to ensure that our grievances are heard and understood.”
He said they will also raise the issue of 553 of their members who were suspended by the HSB after they defied a Labour Court order for them to go back to work.
Today’s meeting comes after the junior doctor announced on Friday that they want talks with their employer to end the impasse that has caused untold suffering of patients in public hospitals.
The doctors went on strike on December 1 demanding better working conditions and salaries in US dollars.
Addressing a press conference in Harare on Friday, Dr Bhebhe said the junior doctors “were praying and ready” for talks.
“The grievances that have been raised by the doctors, junior doctors, middle level doctors and senior doctors are very true and they are not an issue for debate and we believe that if dialogue is restored and we go back to the negotiating table a long lasting solution can be proffered and this is what we are praying for even today,” said Dr Bhebhe.
He said the doctors were also concerned that patients were suffering.
“Today (Friday), we are marking day 28 of the industrial action and the demands as clearly stated by the doctors have not been addressed and this is our concern that at the end of the day the citizens and our patients are the ones who are suffering the most and indeed the need for urgent attention is paramount and very important,” said Dr Bhebhe.
Speaking at the same occasion, Zimbabwe Medical Association secretary general Dr Sacrifice Chirisa said senior doctors supported juniors doctors.
Dr Chirisa said Government must consider dialogue.
“This afternoon, we received a statement from consultants who are the last gate keepers ( in healthcare).
“The consultants have put their weight that the situation (in public health institutions) is untenable.
They cannot cope and this impasse must be broken.
“We believe that dialogue is the best option. You can go for punishment, you can go for punitive action but we believe that mercy must go above the law,” said Dr Chirisa.
Government is on record stating that the strike by the junior doctors was illegal.
The HSB suspended the junior doctors and radiographers for refusing to obey the Labour Court declaring the industrial action illegal.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo could not be reached for a comment yesterday as his personal assistant said he was in a meeting.
However, last week, the Minister said Government was now guided by the rule of law on the issue of striking and suspended doctors.
He said the junior doctors were given 12 hours to comply with the law but defied it.
Dr Moyo said the HSB would now pursue issues of discipline against the suspended doctors.
“They were given 12 hours to correct the situation, but they chose not to do so.
“We are going by the rule of law as indicated by the Presidency. The HSB is there to follow procedures as laid down; to look into the grievances and issues relating to discipline,” said Dr Moyo.