Doctors commit to dialogue with government
Harare (New Ziana) – Striking members of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) on Monday commended efforts that the government is making to resolve issues affecting health workers.
Early last month, the ZHDA declared incapacitation and its members stopped reporting for duty demanding a review of allowances as well as the capacitation of health institutions with equipment and medicines.
In response to their demands, the government initially awarded the doctors a 60 percent pay rise early this month, followed by a further 40 percent increment barely two weeks later.
In addition, the government has started re-tooling all major hospitals in the country with equipment sourced from India and the United Arab Emirates as part of efforts to improve their working conditions.
Medicines and other sundries are also being sourced and delivered to hospitals on a regular basis.
ZHDA secretary general Tawanda Zvakada said the government was making commendable efforts to resolve the dispute between the two parties.
“We acknowledge the attempts by our government so far in trying to address the genuine pleas raised by our doctors,” he said.
He said doctors stood ready to dialogue with the government in order to fully resolve challenges afflicting the health sector.
“ZHDA remains open to meaningful dialogue with the employer to swiftly resolve this crisis.”
Zvakada however said doctors remained incapacitated despite the generous pay rise considering the tight fiscal space that government was operating under.
“We maintain our demand of having our on call allowance reviewed at the prevailing inter-bank rate of that month,” he said.
The unending demands by the doctors have been widely condemned while it is also now believed that they are being influenced by external forces.
“Two months ago, we raised their salaries and they came back again saying the value of the money had been eroded and we offered them a 30 percent increase which they rejected and we increased it to 60 percent which they rejected again,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said last week.
“After going through what is happening, we have discovered that there are a few individuals who are getting outside influence and then coming to influence others to continue with the strike. But what we are saying to the doctors is that you are Zimbabweans and the sick people are also Zimbabweans.
“There is no country that doesn’t have problems, so we should sit down and talk while you are at work. But if you insist on being stubborn, we will see where it will get you to. You might think what you are doing is right, but we will see what will happen at the end.”
The doctors have refused to go back to work even after the Labour Court ruled that their action was illegal.
After the latest increase, a junior doctors’ on-call allowance of ZW$1 200 increased to ZW$2 400 while nurses will get $720 for either night duty, standby or call allowances, up from the previous $360.
The allowances offered to health workers by Government are in addition to other health sector-specific allowances that include locum rates, initial uniform grant, initial uniform allowance, out-of-residence allowance and psychiatric allowances, which were also reviewed upwards.
The government has reiterated its commitment to improving their welfare as well as their working conditions.