365 doctors apply to return to work
Harare(New Ziana)- In what could be the beginning of the end of the crippling months-long doctors’ strike, an official said on Thursday the majority of the health practitioners had signed up to a private top-up salary funding scheme under which they are compelled to return to work immediately on joining.
The top-up salary, worth $100 million, was offered by telecommunications businessman Strive Masiyiwa to 448 junior doctors who have been on strike for nearly three months over low pay and poor working conditions in public hospitals.
Masiyiwa made the offer through his philanthropic vehicle, Higher Life Foundation (HLF), whose chief executive Kennedy Mubaiwa said 365 striking doctors had so far joined the scheme, which was unveiled last week.
Under the scheme, which HLF calls a fellowship, the foundation will pay top-up salaries to the doctors if they returned to work, and committed to remain in post for an agreed period.
Mubaiwa said the response from the doctors to the funding scheme had been overwhelming, and HLF had to extend the application deadlines because of over-subscription.
“The response to the fellowship was overwhelming to the extent that initially we had advertised that we will take applications until 5PM but we had to extend the time to 10PM. We are happy to say that by 10PM we had managed to receive all the applications that were being submitted,” he said.
“We received a total of 365 applications for this fellowship.”
He said an additional monetary incentive, of $5 000, would be offered to doctors who will work during the forthcoming festive season to ensure uninterrupted service in public hospitals.
“We are appealing to the approved applicants who will know from today (Thursday) up to Friday, that anyone who applied and is accepted for the fellowship; it will be critical for them to provide cover at these hospitals where they are working and we will put an additional $5 000 if they cover from December 9 to 9 January 2020,” said Mubaiwa.
“That, including the fellowship, will be $10 000 within the month of December.”
In going on strike, the doctors were demanding pay pegged to the US dollar, but paid on the floating exchange rate of the day, something the government said it could not afford.
Over the months they have been on strike, the doctors snubbed various offers of improved pay from government, and mediation by other stakeholders, in what was now increasingly being seen as politically-motivated industrial action.
They also repeatedly changed goal posts in their demands, and became evasive and militant.
The government, on its part, has offered the doctors improved pay and working conditions, housing and transport, and continuous dialogue on issues of their concern.
But the doctors’ acceptance of the HLF offer, coupled with an improved pay package from government, appears to signal the end of the strike, which had crippled services in public hospitals.