We considered patients' plight: Doctors

HARARE - The crippling doctors’ strike, which was nearing four weeks, was called off in the interest of saving desperate patients’ lives, a union representing the health professionals said.

According to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), government offered them a raw deal as it failed to meet their demands, but they considered calling off the industrial action in consideration of the struggling masses’ plight.

“ZHDA made this decision (to suspend the strike) on the basis of the plight of patients despite government’s failure to meet all the demands from doctors,” the association’s president Edgar Munatsi said.

The protest, that left patients stranded without medical treatment, was the latest in a string of strikes to grip the bankrupt country’s economy in the past year as a liquidity crunch fanned widespread discontent.

The ZHDA said its decision to suspend the strike action follows feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and discussions with government about the ability to maintain a safe service if industrial action were to go ahead.

However, the crucial health professionals threatened another massive walk out soon, including accident and emergency, if their concerns are not addressed.

Doctors were demanding that the government revises upwards to a minimum of $720 on-call allowances for the lowest paid doctor, and that the Health Services Board (HSB) urgently implements the agreed vehicle duty-free framework for all government doctors.

But the parties agreed that the base figure for on-call allowance be reviewed from $288 per month to $360 per month with effect from April 1, 2017, adding when fiscal space becomes available, the allowance will be reviewed.

Government also offered an employer-assisted car loan scheme.

The doctors had also complained that they were working longer hours at anti-social times to the detriment of patient care.

“In good faith, we accept the employers’ commitment to dialogue and the initial promises made anchor further talks. The employer has failed to meet doctors’ demands yet again, but we make this huge compromise as a sign of our commitment to greater good.

“This is a key opportunity for the employer to decisively address our conditions of service which remain abject and deplorable,” Munatsi said.

While a tentative deal has been reached between the ZHDA and the government, junior doctors however, said there was “minimal progress” on several issues.

The government said it has allocated 250 doctors posts with immediate effect.

On-call allowances —  modestly increased by $72 per month — remain “grossly insufficient and a far cry from members’ demands of $720,” Munatsi said.

The Chitungwiza Central Hospital physician said doctors were unanimous that government’s offer was “way too little but we agreed to compromise based on the promise that the resolution of the outstanding sticking points will be done urgently.”

“The ball is now in government’s court to deliver on promises and improve doctors’ conditions of service, failing which, as the ZHDA we remain resolute that we will take decisive action to defend the best interests of the health profession in Zimbabwe.

“We cannot watch as our health system collapses. We sincerely hope that the resumption of industrial action will not be necessary and that the government will act reasonably and do the right thing on time.”

Government had threatened to sack the striking doctors — recently joined by nurses — if they did not return to work.

While noting that in calling for a strike, procedures were not followed, the meeting between government and doctors agreed that the leadership of workers will not face disciplinary action.

In a meeting called by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Prisca Mupfumira today, the issue of rentals will also be discussed and the workers will get an opportunity to share their thoughts.

Comments (1)

Thank you Doctors and medical staff at large. Hope the leadership will take a cue from you.

hameno - 6 March 2017

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