Doctors end 40-day strike

HARARE - Doctors have called off their 40-day industrial action after the Health and Child Care ministry made commitments to meet their demands, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) has said.

The medical practitioners have been on strike since the beginning of December last year, demanding proper equipping of hospitals and to be paid in United States dollars.

In a statement yesterday, announcing the end of the nationwide strike, the doctors said they are begrudgingly going to work, even in the absence of a review of their salaries.

“ZHDA is delighted to inform the membership, members of the press and public that the industrial action by doctors in government hospitals has come to an end. It has been 40 straight days since doctors embarked on an industrial action, citing various grievances that were and are crippling health service delivery in public institutions.

“The industrial action was meant to remind and send a clear message to the relevant authorities that the healthcare sector in the country was deteriorating and hence the need for urgent interventions,” the doctors said.

They said the Health ministry made commitments to address the crippling factors, adding it was their hope the promises will be met in the correct time frame as agreed.

For over a month, the doctors and government went back and forth in negotiations, as the medical practitioners resisted offers which did not meet their demands.

In their statement, the doctors, however, said it should not take 40 days of industrial action for the Health ministry to take action.

“Therefore, there is a need of consistent and continuous engagements between and the ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) to avoid unnecessary interruption of service delivery. The MOHCC has committed in writing that it will consistently improve supply of medicines, medical and surgical sundries in public health facilities. 
It was further agreed that there is going to be unfreezing of critical posts for doctors across central, provincial and district hospitals.

“We hope these promises will be fulfilled with urgency, as it has been the culture of the Health Services Board to go back on agreements before. We also continue to negotiate on outstanding issues like remuneration and working hours and hope we find common ground soon,” the doctors said.

They also said without a salary review, reporting for duty was going to be a challenge.

“Sadly, with no salary review and frozen December salaries in this rough and ravaging economic environment, it remains a dilemma how our members will report to work daily. Indeed, poor remuneration and the current fuel shortage remain a threat that may spontaneously hinder our members from reporting to work daily and discharging quality health services to patients. That being said, our members have begrudgingly resumed work with effect from today (yesterday), as dialogue continues.”

The announcement to end doctors’ strike comes at a time when civil servants have given a 14-day notice to government, saying they will go on strike if the administration fails to improve their welfare and pay them in US dollars.

Teachers have also made a plea for government to pay in US dollars, with unions resolving to down tools.

Even though the government is adamant the surrogate bond notes and RTGS are at par with the US dollar, these modes of payment continue to plunge in value on the parallel market.

Government is, however, on record stating it is not in a position to meet the demands by its workers to pay in US dollars.

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