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Harare Heavyweight Steps In To Resolve Strike By Hospital Doctors

Zimbabwean Acting Health Minister Sydney Sekeramai on Wednesday engaged striking junior and senior hospital residents in a bid to end a crippling labor action now in its fifth week, representatives of the striking physicians said.

Dr. Sekeremai, also minister of defense and ruling party secretary for health, asked the doctors to put their grievances and demands in writing, sources said, adding that the residents had already submitted that information to Sekeremai. The ruling party heavyweight stepped in this week to take over handling of the crisis from Health Minister David Parirenyatwa, who abruptly left on leave early this week.

Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said Dr. Sekeremai’s move was positive because it was the first sign that the government was prepared to deal directly with the striking doctors.

After the strike started on December 21, health minister Parirenyatwa held discussions only with hospital consulting physicians rather than with the striking doctors. Last week the Ministry of Health ordered the doctors to go back to work or be dismissed, saying it had come up with a pay deal but refusing to disclose what the terms were.

Meanwhile, Parirenyatwa Hospital residents said they have not been paid though their colleagues at Harare Hospital and in Bulawayo at Mpilo Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospital said they have been paid their monthly salaries. They said their pay included the 300% increase which Harare granted this month to all civil servants.

Meanwhile, nurses at Parirenyatwa Hospital said they had gone on strike. Some of the nurses said they decided to strike after receiving salaries ranging from Z$120,000 to Z$195,000 (US$28 to US$46 at the parallel exchange rate in wide use) when they were hoping to see increases to Z$3 million to Z$4 million (US$715-US$950).

A nurse at Parirenyatwa Hospital who gave his name only as Gerald told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that nurses at the institution, named for the health minister's father, feel betrayed by the system they serve.

Studio seven was unable to reach senior officials at the Ministry of Health to confirm details of the ongoing negotiations and obtain comment on the situation.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...