Junior doctors' industrial action shuts hospitals

HARARE - The union that represents junior doctors has dramatically escalated its dispute with the government over new contracts by announcing an all-out strike, in which even emergency cover has been withdrawn.

The decision has meant that junior doctors will for the first time not staff A&E (accident and emergency) units, intensive care, emergency surgery or other areas of life or death care.

It is a high-risk move by the medics below consultant level and is the latest twist to their contract impasse with the Health Services Board (HSB).

Junior doctors have refused to sign a government contract of employment which they claim violates women’s rights and fair labour practice.

Mpilo Central Hospital has begun turning away patients.

“While this is happening, we have taken the following measures as a department, medical outpatient department will remain closed with immediate effect until the situation is resolved,” Mpilo Central Hospital said in a letter addressed to the ministry of Health.

“Only critical and dire emergencies will be attended to and admitted by our health medical officers who have been working flat out during this time.

“I believe you are aware of the ongoing impasse between the Health Services Board and the new crop of junior resident medical officers over their contracts,” the hospital added.

The doctors last week petitioned HSB chairperson Lovemore Mbengeranwa, Health minister David Parirenyatwa and Health ministry permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji.

The doctors, who are referred to as junior resident medical officers, claim their contracts of employment are prejudicial to their welfare.

The doctors, who were supposed to have commenced their duties at the beginning of this month, have not done so arguing the contracts are also not clear on salaries, allowances and non-cash incentives.

The contract is flawed and carries void clauses, they argued, which does not leave room for negotiation on other issues to do with working timetables.

  “The new doctors are supposed to have resumed their duties by now,” the Mpilo Central Hospital letter said.

“The Department of Medicine has been affected by this and is left with no junior resident medical officers since the current crop graduated to be senior resident medical officers.

“This development has affected service delivery in the department.  I have communicated this to the CEO and clinical director who then sent communication that the Health Services Board is working to resolve this issue as soon as they possibly can.”

Efforts to get a comment from Gwinji were unsuccessful.

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