Senior doctors join in strike

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Nearly all senior and junior doctors have joined the ongoing strike that started early this month as they are now demanding their salaries in United States Dollars , the Mail and Telegraph has learnt.

In a press statement released this week, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said some doctors were now sleeping in fuel queues due to the worsening economic situation.

“The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association would like to confirm to the nation that doctors from all government central hospitals and as well as some district hospitals embarked on an industrial action which began on the 1st of December 2018. Currently nearly all junior and senior resident medical officers have withdrawn their services. A growing number of senior doctors have also been

withdrawing their services as the industrial action continues,” ZHDA said.

ZHDA  demanded to be  paid in US dollars citing that the government was now using multi currency.

“ The doctors jointly embarked on the industrial action citing the following pertinent requests to the

employer:

“ The Employer must secure all the needed medical equipment and drugs with immediate

effect not just mere monetary promises which are not coupled with any tangible supplies

“ Since the government of Zimbabwe is using the multicurrency system. As doctors we have

noted the ever-growing need for the United States Dollars in the market in order to secure

basic needs. We therefore opt that our salaries or a part of it be paid in that currency until

the situation regains normalcy.

“The Employer must review the on call allowance to 10 USD /hour as per previous

agreements

“The employer must create more posts for doctors at government hospitals (both training

and working posts) so as to improve the current unbearable doctor to patient ratio.

“The Employer must revalue the vehicle loan scheme in order to assist health workers in

transportation and that funds be disbursed with immediate effect

“The employer must come up with well-defined working hours for doctors so that patient

care remains uncompromised.

“The employer must come up with an immediate crisis management plan which ensures that

medical personnel are allocated fuel so that unnecessary delays which may compromise

patient care are avoided.

“The above noted concerns are aimed at creating a stable health care system in accordance with His

Excellency’s vision 2030. It is apparent that no economic environment can ever thrive with an ever

depreciating health care system,” the association said.

The Association said major triggers of the Industrial action were the economic situation, lack of drugs in hospitals among other things.

“Major  Triggers of the Industrial Action: The industrial action comes in the wake of a sudden change in the economic situation in the past few months which has seen the disappearance of basic medical equipment and medication from our hospitals. By late November, even basic drugs such as Paracetamol where no longer in stock at our central hospitals and our patients had to be referred to private pharmacies after consultation by a doctor.  

“Such a system would have been bearable if there was a guarantee that the medication could be accessed easily from the private pharmacies. However, we noted with concern that most of the private pharmacies had either hiked their prices or were now charging strictly in United States dollars. The net effect was that most outpatients were no longer taking their prescribed medication such that in the past few months there was an increase in the number of patients who were coming to government hospitals in critical states due to defaulting of treatment.

“ This applied mainly to patients with conditions such as Diabetes, Hypertension and Epilepsy among others who have to be on lifelong medication. Operations were also now being cancelled as the much needed post-operation analgesic drugs were no longer available,”  ZHDA said.

The association said the challenges have not spared the health sector.

“The already alluded to economic change did not spare the welfare of medical personnel. In the past few months the country witnessed a sudden increase in the prices of basic commodities.

“The end result was a devaluation of the net salary by nearly 400 % of the original value. Fuel shortages worsened the situation. Most medical personnel were now forced to sleep in fuel queues despite having been on night duty or yet alone, the need for punctuality at work the following day. There was also an increased need for the US dollar in the market,”ZHDA said.

ZHDA said doctors also needs cars but they cannot access United States Dollars.

“As an example, the Honourable Minister of Finance gave a policy that the customs duty of all luxury vehicles must be paid in the currency by which the vehicle has been purchased. The whole country is aware that this implies that the duty shall be paid in either United States Dollars or the Rand as these are the currencies by which most vehicles imported to Zimbabwe are purchased.

“To the best of our knowledge, there is nowhere in the world were vehicles are imported directly using bond notes. Being civil servants who need cars to fulfil their daily work routines, our medical doctors were short circuited and found in a situation where they had to look up to the employer for the much needed United States Dollars,” the association said.

ZHDA said Health and Child care minister Dr Obadiah Moyo was focusing on media propaganda instead of solving the issues that doctors are facing.

“Additionally, various products are now being charged in United States Dollars on the

market either officially or unofficially.

“We recognise the effort of the Honourable Minister of Health Dr Obadiah Moyo, in creating a

negotiation platform for the grievances to be addressed. However, the assigned team has been

deliberately sluggish deciding to focus on media propaganda instead of addressing the situation with

the urgency it deserves.

“The meeting between the employer and the government was scheduled on

the 12th of December despite the urgency of the situation. All such meetings in our view could have

been done in the shortest possible time but the response was deliberately sluggish.

As it stands, doctors remain on industrial action and the situation in our hospitals has grown

increasingly dire as we approach the festive .

“We therefore call upon our employer to be more serious with the health care of the nation and not sabotage vision 2030. Doctors  are already prepared to come to terms with the employer so that the impasse is resolved as early as possible.

“Till then, they remain on industrial action and more seniors will be joining so that the employer may

address our beloved country’s health care system with the respect it deserves,” ZHDA said.

Junior doctors embarked on a strike on December 1 before being joined by radiographers who are also citing poor remuneration and poor working conditions as the reason for embarking on the strike.

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