Conflicting reports over doctors', nurses' strike

HARARE - Conflicting reports surrounded day one of the planned health workers’ strike yesterday, following their rejection of government’s offer of a $1 per day transport allowance to see them through to the payment of their delayed December 2015 salaries.

The nurses and doctors had threatened to bring the country’s health sector to its knees by going on a nationwide strike after government re-scheduled their December salaries to the first week of January.

However, with yesterday being a holiday when institutions are usually manned by skeleton staff, it was difficult to ascertain the full scale of the strike which is likely to become clearer today.

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) and Zimbabwe Nurses Association were yesterday adamant that a number of nurses had begun to carry through their threat of downing their tools.

“In a survey carried out by Zina and ZHDA most nurses and doctors in the country’s major hospitals failed to get to their work stations, citing several challenges,” the two bodies said in a statement yesterday.

“Most doctors and nurses interviewed by our information departments cited that they lack adequate funds for transport and basic living expenses since their last salaries in November 2015.

“Reports indicate that Harare Central Hospital maternity unit had, by afternoon (yesterday), become almost fully dysfunctional.

“The other major central hospitals also faced critical staffing shortages since morning.

“The numbers of health workers on strike are also expected to increase following social media speculation that paydays can be further moved to January 12.

“ZHDA and Zina leaderships continue to call upon for the employer to urgently disburse salaries for health workers if normalcy is to return.”

Nurses canvassed for comment by the Daily News yesterday acknowledged the presence of discontent in the country’s State-run health institutions.

“Some departments rejected the dollar-a-day proposal.

“They felt it would not serve their landlords’ and children’s needs,” said a Parirenyatwa health care worker who declined to be named.

Another Harare Central Hospital worker said the institution had “completely rejected government’s transport allowance, saying it was better they used that money to buy drugs.”

However, Chitungwiza Central Hospital seemed to be a different ball game altogether with public relations officer Audrey Tasaranawo insisting the hospitals staff “understood the situation”.

“All members of staff came to work. Transport has been provided to ferry staff to and from work,” she said.

ZHDA and Zina, however, remained adamant.

“…..the few health workers seen at some centres are those strategic cadres they deployed to attend to only emergency issues so as to prove that they are not equally as heartless as their employer who has seen them go through a sad festive season despite being actively at work.”

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