'Govt unaware of doctors' ultimatum'

HARARE - Government claims it is unaware of a 14-day ultimatum to review salaries and allowances for medical doctors.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said it sent the ultimatum to the ministry of Health and Child Care 13 days ago.

But a day before the lapse of the deadline, Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa said his office was yet to see the letter.

“What are you talking about?” Parirenyatwa asked reporters on the sidelines of the Global Handwashing Day in Harare on Wednesday.

“I do not know anything about it. It has not come to me.”

ZHDA claims it dispatched the ultimatum to Health ministry permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji, explaining that it was “deeply concerned by the current salaries, allowances and working conditions for doctors working at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Harare Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), Chitungwiza Central Hospital and Mpilo Central Hospital.”

Fortune Nyamande, the ZHDA president, said they met the acting Health ministry permanent secretary Simukai Zizhou 11 days ago.

Nyamande said the minister’s ignorance of the ultimatum could be a result of bureaucracy.

“Then it means they are not taking our issues seriously,” Nyamande told the Daily News in a telephone interview.

“Those are valid issues which if addressed doctors will serve the nation to the maximum of their ability. If the period lapses with no consideration from government, our members are determined to down their tools.

The letter says: “The government must not charge all doctors residing in government-provided accommodation the current exorbitant rates of $250.

“These rates should be reduced to $37 for bachelor’s flats and $45 for one bed-roomed flats.

“We also resolved that government must pay at least 1.45 x hourly rate as an on-call allowance. The government must also reinstate the duty-free facility where doctors can import vehicles without paying duty.

“Lastly, the government must urgently come up with a comprehensive response to the possibility of an Ebola outbreak that shall protect doctors, other health workers and their families from the deadly disease.”

ZHDA said it expected response to the above mentioned issues in writing within 14 days, failure of which would lead to a nationwide strike.

The demands are coming at a time government is struggling to meet the wage bill for civil servants.

Nyamande said their conditions of service were among the worst in the sub region.

“We only have about 300 to 400 doctors serving the whole public sector,” he said.

“It means annually, government needs about $4,8 million to pay the professionals attending to the whole country. If we go regional, doctors are not earning anything less than $2 500.”

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