Nurses at Harare Hospital today joined resident doctors in Zimbabwean state hospitals on strike demanding increased salaries and allowances. Nurses at Harare's Parirenyatwa Hospital and the two main hospitals in Bulawayo were said to have initiated a slowdown action.
The walkout by Harare Hospital nurses obliged the institution to close down its casualty and outpatient departments, and senior doctors attended only to emergency cases.
Patients continued to be turned away from all state hospitals. Experts have expressed fear that the widening strike could hinder the country’s ability to respond to the H1N1 influenza pandemic which has spread in South Africa, or to a new cholera epidemic.
More than 4,200 people died of cholera in Zimbabwe between late 2008 and May of this year. The epidemic coincided with a walkout by medical staff and a state hospital shutdown.
Health Minister Henry Madzorera has appealed to the doctors to return to work saying the gains made in recent months restoring the health care system are at risk.
Health Services Board Executive Chairman Lovemore Mbengeranwa told the House Committee on Health that most of the doctors’ grievances were being addressed and that they would soon be on the job again. But the Hospital Doctors Association challenged his statement.
Association President Brighton Chizhande told VOA reporter Sandra Nyaira that the Health Services Board and government are not committed to resolving the dispute.
Chief Executive Itai Rusike of the Community Working Group on Health said the government should negotiate the return of the doctors to alleviate the plight of poor Zimbabweans who cannot afford to seek medical care in costly private clinics.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...