The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association says it will embark on industrial action beginning October 27 after talks with government over salaries collapsed.
The doctors’ action will further strain a struggling public health system, which like all countries in the world, is also on high alert due to the Ebola virus ravaging some West African countries.
Zimbabwe has not recorded a single case of Ebola. Liberia is the epicenter of the deadly disease that has killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in West Africa.
In a statement released by the doctors’ body Monday, the health practitioners said they have a constitutional right to down tools.
“According to Section 65 subsection 2 and subsection 3 of the new Zimbabwean constitution, doctors like any other Zimbabweans are allowed to participate in industrial action."
The statement further states that: "The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association has been directed by its members to call for a peaceful nationwide strike by doctors beginning Monday 27 October 2014 as a response to the laxity shown by government to address our concerns. This strike shall only be called off if our demands are met through a written formal communication by the employer.”
Early this month junior doctors at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals downed tools to press the government to review its move to withdraw housing allowances and improve their living and working conditions.
The action came after an alleged unilateral announcement by government to scrap a $300 housing allowance to force doctors to move into government accommodation at the hospital.
Hospital Doctors’ Association of Zimbabwe president, Arthur Mhizha, claimed that meetings with the hospital authorities had failed to resolve the matter, leaving the doctors with no option, but to engage in the collective job action they said must lead to improvement in their working conditions.
The junior doctors were reportedly earning more than $800 a month including $300 housing allowances before they were slashed.
The doctors in their statement are alleging that the government is not making any firm commitments. “Doctors through the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association have lost confidence that the government has any concrete, verifiable and practical plans to review our working conditions as highlighted in the ultimatum sent to them,” .
Following the long-standing dispute between doctors working in government hospitals and the employer, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association has been involved in a series of negotiations, consultations and deliberations on how to resolve the impasse.
The Association said it wanted to notify all its members, the public, the relevant government ministries and boards that: “In the period up to 27 October 2014, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association will urge all its members to mobilize their peers, media partners, allied health workers and the affected public for solidarity, publicity and network building, so as to ensure the strike will reach its intended goal.”
Efforts to get a comment from Health Minister Dr. David Parirenyatwa were futile, but ministry sources told VOA that they will appeal to the army to release army doctors to cope with emergencies as they have done before.
Doctors last went on a strike, which crippled health delivery services, in 2009.