Nurses call off strike, doctors defiant

HARARE - The strike by doctors yesterday entered its third week after they accused the Health Services Board (HSB) of negotiating in bad faith but nurses have pulled out of the industrial action by opting to negotiate while at work.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) recalled its members who had joined the striking doctors — choosing to serve patients despite not being happy with government’s attitude towards their grievances.

“As the national executive we have learnt with a heavy heart that the government is not sincere with nurses’ working conditions and it is not taking the nurses grievances with the urgency they deserve.

“Due to the fact that we have patients at heart and after consultation with provinces, we have decided to call off the industrial action with the condition that night duty should be paid without the need of the claim form, while other grievances are being pursued, viz: medical/risk factor allowance, uniform maintenance, review of locum rates (and) the availability of resources,” the nurses’ executive said.

On other hand, doctors have vowed to continue with their industrial action.

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) spokesperson Mxolisi Ngwenya, accused the HSB of negotiating in bad faith, which resulted in the doctors storming out of a meeting held last week.

“In the meantime, we will continue with the industrial action,” Ngwenya said.

He claimed the government had misrepresented facts to the effect that it was paying doctors $5 per hour, yet according to calculations, the government is actually paying $1,50.

In a statement issued last Friday, the HSB said government through the Health Service Bipartite Negotiation Panel had signed a collective bargaining agreement, meant to effectively bring the 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 re-introduced.

Government has also introduced a nurse manager’s allowance in recognition to the added responsibility.

Doctors are demanding among other things an upward review of on-call allowance, want the government to honour its word to subsidise purchase of cars and the HSB to urgently implement the agreed vehicle duty-free framework.

The ongoing strike has caused untold suffering to desperate patients at major government hospitals.

Parirenyatwa and Harare Central hospitals have had to suspend a number of services due to the absence of essential medical staff.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has so far not been able to end the myriad problems affecting the public health institutions.

Zimbabwe is relying on foreign imports for its drugs, equipment and hospital consumables and imports over $400 million worth of basic drugs each year.

Due to the worsening shortages of foreign currency, hospitals have been experiencing shortages of oxygen.

The shortage of oxygen comes as doctors are battling to contain the outbreak of bronchiolitis which has seen a surge in the number of children seeking treatment.

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