Doctors vow to continue their month-long industrial action

Striking junior doctors have vowed to continue with their month-long industrial action despite claims by government that the two sides have reached a consensus on the majority of their demands.

Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) secretary-general Mthabisi Bhebhe told the Daily News yesterday that no such consensus had been reached with the Health ministry.

“We have reached a consensus that the industrial action should continue until all the grievances have been addressed. We have realised that there is selective implementation of the demands, because nothing has changed in hospitals, there is no medication, no sundries … The situation on the ground remains the same,” Bhebhe said, adding that critical machines are still down, despite government claims of having put the situation under control.

Bhebhe said some of the important issues such as poor remuneration for health personnel have been totally abandoned in the discussions.

He said the promise by government to review their salaries in April does not make sense, as they are already struggling to make ends meet with the current salary, which has been heavily eroded by inflation.

He further said the major issues of shortages of drugs, equipment and remuneration must be addressed “today, if not yesterday”.

Meanwhile, the Health Services Board (HSB), said the parties have agreed on a number of issues, including that retention allowances would be paid in the currency disbursed by the donors and that government will review remuneration of Health workers in April this year.

“Members of Zimbabwe Government Radiographer Association (ZiGRA), who engaged in the industrial action which was declared unlawful by the Labour Court, have since returned to work with the affirmation that there would be no victimisation against those who took part in the industrial action.

“The commitment to return to work by the ZHDA members would be made upon the affirmation of the absence of victimisation through disciplinary hearings and the resolution of point six which highlights the absence of an agreement on remuneration,” HSB said.

One of the issues at the core of the industrial action is that doctors are demanding payment in United States dollars. Government has however, said it will not pay in foreign currency.

In a statement, acting president Constantino Chiwenga said government will by no means pay in US dollars.

“The government does not print United States dollars. The hard-earned foreign currency will be committed to, among other areas importing essential medicines for use in hospitals and clinics, as well as to facilitate the recovery of economy, in line with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme,” Chiwenga said.

He said the doctors must report for duty, considering that the court ruled that the industrial action was illegal.

“Mindful of the recent Labour Court judgment which ruled the industrial action unlawful, and in the interest of the patients who stand affected by this unlawful action by striking doctors, government has now decided on the following steps: In line with the court order, to request the Health Services Board to take appropriate action against the striking doctors whose conduct has been declared unlawful by the courts, and is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath, ethics, and international best practices which enjoin medical doctors and interns to ‘always treat other persons as having individual morals worth and dignity and never treat them merely as means to one’s own ends’.

“Further, the oath warns that without it, ‘the doctor is a skilled technician or labourer whose knowledge fits him for an occupation but not a profession’.
International best practices which govern doctors and interns, provide that doctors should not abandon patients and posts; and that, instead they should bring forward their grievances while making sure loss of life or unnecessary pain and suffering is avoided. By going against the Hippocratic Oath, the striking doctors have shown their callous insensitivity to human life, pain and suffering.”

Chiwenga said in the meantime, government will not allow any demonstrations at medical facilities, as the sole purpose of these institutions is to treat patients.

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