Polyclinics nurses down tools

HARARE - Nurses working in the city’s polyclinics yesterday downed tools in protest over late payments of salaries and bonuses.

The workers, who are not happy with delays in salary payments by their employer, had vowed not to return to work until their issues have been addressed.

The Daily News crew visited Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic in Mbare where desperate patients and pregnant mothers could be seen helplessly sitting with some sleeping on benches.

Doors at the maternity clinic were closed while the disgruntled nurses sat in a room chatting away.

Patients requiring urgent medical attention were referred to Harare Hospital.

“We have been told they (nurses) can’t attend to us on empty stomachs. I heard they are always getting their salaries late and in batches. One nursing sister told us that if our child is seriously ill, we should go kuGomo (Harare Central Hospital) as the situation is the same at other polyclinics,” said one woman who preferred anonymity.

According to government statistics, Harare City runs 12 polyclinics, 13 satellite clinics, six primary care clinics, six family health care clinics, four dental clinics and two infectious disease hospitals — making it a major player in the capital’s health services provision. But it was business as usual yesterday at Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital, the workers had also downed tools last week citing similar grievances.

City Health director Prosper Chonzi said last week the industrial action was a result of delayed bonus payments. “We had paid bonuses for 23 of the 47 nurses but they have since gone back to work after we told them we have started depositing the money,”  Chonzi said.

Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni lashed out at the cash-strapped council’s town clerk Tendai Mahachi whom he accused of living large and buying top-of-the-range vehicles at the expense of service delivery.

Harare City Council has for  been struggling to pay its workers on time. Residents’ lobby groups blame the fat pay cheques given to city bosses for poor service delivery and late salary payments to junior workers.

The health sector has recently been riddled by strikes starting with public hospital doctors late last year after they engaged in a 17-day strike that crippled the sector.

Recently, about 18 000 nurses working for government also threatened to withdraw their services over delayed payment of the 13th cheque.

Enjoyment of the right to health in Zimbabwe is continually suffering from poor infrastructure, low employee morale, obsolete equipment and perpetual underfunding of health institutions.

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