Zimbabwe's main state hospitals were turning away patients on Tuesday as resident doctors in institutions in Harare, the capital, and Bulawayo, the second-largest city, continued a strike demanding that the strapped unity government significantly increase their salaries.
Sources at hospitals in Bulawayo said only critical cases were being admitted and others were being turned away due to the strike by so-called junior doctors. They said senior physicians were working flat out to deal with holiday emergencies including highway accident victims.
Conditions in Harare hospitals were somewhat better, sources there said.
Tuesday was Defense Forces Day following Heroes Day on Monday, both holidays.
Nurses at Harare Hospital said they were working longer hours with senior doctors to ensure care to patients, but that senior physicians were unable to cope with the patient load.
Reached by VOA, Health Minister Henry Madzorera refused to comment, saying he would be briefed on Wednesday by the Health Services Board which he said employs the doctors.
The striking doctors are demanding a monthly salary of at least US$3,000, a third from the government and the balance split between donors and their employing hospitals.
The doctors currently receive US$390 a month from the government and a British donor.
Doctor Anthony Mthombeni described conditions in Bulawayo Central and Mpilo hospitals to reporter Brenda Moyo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.
Dr. Brighton Chizhanje, president of the Hospital Doctors Association, told reporter Sandra Nyaira that he and his colleagues won’t return to work until their demands are met.
But Bulawayo health worker Vicky Nkomo said she thought the doctors were being greedy as it is clear the government is struggling to pay even smaller amounts to other public workers such as teachers, the most senior of whom make just US$200 a month.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...