'Zim doctors getting $329 a month'


HARARE - The Daily News on Sunday’s Bridget Mananavire spoke to Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) president Edgar Munatsi about the ongoing strike by doctors.

Q: As a starting point, what really triggered the strike?

A: To give you a background of the on-going strike, sometime towards the end of last year, the government announced through the permanent secretary of Health (Gerald Gwinji) that they were no longer able to absorb doctors who finish internship into public institutions.

And then the ZHDA did engage the ministry trying to map a way forward, and they insisted that they were not able to employ because they couldn’t increase the establishment.

Then we also tried to tell the government that if that was the situation, then government should be able to give doctors who finish internship open practice certificates, which was the basis of our negotiations.

But the unfortunate thing is that they didn’t respond until very late in December last year, when they called us for a meeting where nothing tangible was reached as a way forward.

For us, what was making sense was either to employ the doctors or give us open certificates and we even petitioned them. And we know there is a need for doctors already at the country’s hospitals, our district hospitals and provincial hospitals are not adequately manned in terms of doctor-to-patient ratio. And then people said we can’t keep on writing letters and from experience we know that the language they know best is if people use their bargaining rights to say collectively as doctors, we are now going to down tools.

Q: Where did the other issues of on-call allowances and duty-free vehicle facility then come from?

A: In 2014, government said they were going to increase the on-call allowance from a flat figure of $288 to a minimum of $720 for the least paid doctor.

They indicated that they were going to do it in two years, which they didn’t.And people said we might as well remind them of our earlier agreement of 2014.

In the same year, they had promised that they were going to provide for a doctors’ vehicle procurement scheme, where the government was supposed to chip-in in terms of payment of tax to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority.

We decided it was high time they fulfilled promises and provide a clear way as to what was going to happen when we finish our internship.

Q: How much do doctors earn?

A: The basic salary for a doctor is $329 and then on top of that, a doctor gets $288 on-call allowance, $49 medical allowance and $70 for housing. If you look at those figures, you can see that for example with medical allowance, that figure is not commensurate with subscriptions in the medical aid societies.

Q: How does this compare with other doctors in the region?

A: It’s quite bad. Taking for instance South Africa, doctors who are fresh from school take home almost R36 000 after tax, which is way, way more than what we are getting. And their working conditions are very different. For instance, a doctor on-call, they have proper rooms where they take naps, they are comfortable. 

Here the conditions are very deplorable, the rooms are dilapidated, and you are not provided with any meals for instance.

And this is the same person who is paid $1,20 for the night. And you know sometimes we have to handle patients with bare hands without gloves, sometimes the patients can’t afford to buy simple things like paracetamol, simple things like getting a drip, and all these are the challenges the doctors are facing.

Q: How is that affecting your duty to attend to patients?

A: There is no amount of money that can replace the feeling that you get when a patient says, ‘thank you, I’m better today.’ And all that euphoria that you get from the ‘thank you’ is being replaced by a lot of depression and despair because you can’t help patients.

And these patients do not have anything and they get to a hospital and are told they have to get everything.  This stress is transferred to a doctor, because there is also some level of attachment that you have with your patients

Q: How does the lack of resources and the poor conditions of service for doctors affect service?

A: The service that patients get at the end of the day is compromised; especially when doctors have to improvise so that you do something.  So generally, coupled with a doctor thinking about how am I going to get home when I finish my call, what am I going to eat because these guys are earning too little, so the services they provide are much compromised.

Q: How many hours do doctors work, roughly?

A: If a doctor is not on-call, which are the normal working hours, you start around 7:30 in the morning and finish around 4:30 pm or 5pm. But because of the dwindling number of junior doctors, what then happens is on top of doing that duty, at 5pm then you start your on-call until 8am, then you have to go freshen up, then you start again. So you can even go for 36 hours without proper sleep.

Q: What is your opinion on government’s commitment to health delivery?

A: For us it is an issue of priorities being misplaced because for one, we can see in other sectors how well they are funded and how the public health sector is being neglected. Patients are dying and suffering without any assistance from the government, which is a very sad development. They are failing to even fund the sector in accordance with the Abuja Declaration which they ratified, and requires that health be allocated at least 15 percent of the National budget.

Q: At what point do doctors open their own practice?

A: It is when you get an open practice. After you finish medical school, a doctor does internship for two years and after that they are either employed at a district hospital for a year or if you remain at a central hospital you then get the open practice certificate after two more years upon completion of internship.

Comments (3)

But Dr Cuthbert Dube, dodgy boss of PSMAS ( medical aid society), earns US$ 500 000 PER MONTH - Zimbabwe comedy show just goes on and on and on ....... maybe bond notes will bring all back to reality quite quickly

nelson moyo - 6 March 2017


critic - 6 March 2017

The solution is to have new govt .Not a zanu govt of course . Lets replace the present bunch of pretenders then we can pay our doctors better salaries

Diibulaanyika - 6 March 2017

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