Doctors' strike continues despite govt claims

HARARE - The ongoing doctors' strike which has crippled public health institutions is continuing despite claims by the Health Services Board (HSB) that a lasting solution has been found.

As of yesterday, public hospitals were completely shut down.

In a statement issued on Friday, the HSB said government through the Health Service Bipartite Negotiation Panel had signed a collective bargaining agreement, effectively bringing the two-week long strike to an end.

According to details of the collective bargaining agreement published by the HSB, additional benefits have been added to the health workers with effect from April 1, 2018.

It says on-call, night duty and stand/call allowances have been reviewed by 50 percent, while post basic allowance for nursing staff who acquire approved additional qualifications up to a maximum of two qualifications has been reintroduced.

Government has also introduced a nurse managers allowance in recognition to the added responsibility. However, doctors said they would not be returning to work as government was yet to attend to their concerns and were, in fact, negotiating in bad faith.

“That is propaganda from HSB to try and win sympathy from the public,” the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said in a statement yesterday.

ZHDA said they met government negotiators on March 15, “and they showed up three hours late for the meeting. They misrepresented minutes of the last meeting on March 6, 2018, omitting demands raised by the ZHDA and we refused to pass them as accurate.

“Government negotiators went on to claim that doctors work 72 hours on-call per month. This was refuted by the ZHDA using a circular issued by the secretary of Health which stated that we work 160 hours on call per month. The government team insisted that they were paying $5 per hour, which was proven to be inaccurate, a fabrication and a complete misrepresentation. ZHDA asked government to get their facts right and not negotiate in bad faith like they have always done since 2014.

“Meeting reached deadlock and was postponed to Friday. Government negotiators showed up two hours late at Friday’s meeting and had not bothered to rectify the misrepresentations highlighted in the previous meeting. We will only return to work when all issues raised by the ZHDA have been fully resolved. We urge all Zimbabweans to pray for us as we try to restore sanity, dignity and nobility of the medical profession,” ZHDA said.

Doctors are demanding among other things an upward review of on-call allowance which stands at $1,50 an hour saying in 2014 government promised an increase to $10 an hour.

Doctors also want government to honour its word to subsidise purchase of cars and the HSB to urgently implement the agreed vehicle duty-free framework.

They also want a review of the $16 a month rural allowance paid to government doctors that treat the majority of Zimbabwe’s population in rural areas.

While doctors yesterday said they had not signed any deal with government, nurses were more cautious.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association secretary-general Enock Dongo said they had withdrawn their services because of the promises made to them mid last week which were then reversed at a bipartite negotiation meeting the next day “which have now been granted”.

“We cannot confirm if we are going back to work as that is a decision that will be made by the nurses after they deliberate on what is being offered. We are taking the offer with reservations because they didn’t meet half of our demands,” said Dongo.

“We still have issues around medical allowance or risk allowance as our nurses are exposed to health risks, we also need drugs in hospitals and modern equipment’s in hospitals to give care to our clients, we also want salary review, we are currently earning $284 against the poverty datum line (PDL) of $700,” Dongo added.

According to the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, the PDL is at $579.

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