Doctors' strike enters Day 6

HARARE - The doctors’ strike yesterday entered day six, with government pledging to rectify discrepancies in on-call allowances.

But the doctors have continued striking demanding that government commits to a specific date of adoption of the new rates.

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) secretary-general, Farai Makoni, who announced the development, said the doctors can only have surety if the promise is inked, with a definitive  timeline.

“The doctors resolved that they shall only go back to work as soon as the employer assures them in writing of a fixed date when reviewed on-call allowances will be disbursed in 2014,” Makoni told journalists after a Friday meeting with Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa.

“They urged the responsible authorities to look into this matter, outstanding issues for immediate resolution of the crippling strike which has seen patients suffer, turned away and some even losing their lives”.

At least 300 of the 400 doctors of ZHDA withdrew their labour last Monday, leaving state hospitals running on a handful of senior doctors who have only been attending to emergency cases.

The stay away follows an unmet two-week ultimatum issued to government through the Health ministry, with the doctors demanding improvements in conditions of service, including a minimum salary of $1 200 from the current $280.

On-call allowances, according to the demand letter, must be pegged at $1,45 per hour.

Apart from the demanded salary review, the junior doctors have also been demanding duty exemptions and adequate infection prevention equipment against the deadly Ebola virus.

The parent ministry and the Health Service Board (HSB) have already met the ZHDA executive several times without success.

Parirenyatwa was not taking calls from the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, while HSB executive chairman Lovemore Mbengeranwa was not aware of the pledge.

“They took it to the minister so I have not been attending the meetings,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said government should align doctors’ remuneration with that of their regional counterparts.

“Due limited fiscal space, government can also look at other options to remunerate the doctors such as non-cash incentives like offering them residential stands, exemption from paying duty for imported motor vehicles, opportunities for career growth,” Rusike told the Daily News on Sunday.

“We need a long term solution as this has a negative effect to the majority poor who depend on the public health system.

“It is very expensive to train a doctor using tax payers’ money but we may continue losing them to other countries if they struggle to put food on the table.

“If we pretend to pay the doctors they will also pretend to work. A hungry man is an angry man, so, let us not compromise on quality of care by putting patients at the mercy of disgruntled doctors.”

Although Zimbabwe’s supreme law declares health as a right for every citizen, thousands continue to be deprived owing to poverty, poor service delivery attributable to obsolete equipment and low employee morale.

Rusike said government should consider extending any offers agreed on to other health workers to avert possible similar disruptions to health care provision.

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