Five hundred Zimbabwean doctors on a 14-day suspension have dismissed as false, claims by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government that most of their demands, including provision of essential drugs and equipment in state hospitals, have almost been met.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) said the government is not being insincere in its dealings with doctors and as a result “we will only return to work when the government treats our health sector with the delicacy and professionalism it deserves.”
The ZHDA statement dismissed claims by the government it has medical stocks at the country's supplier of drugs and other medical necessities, the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe or NATPHARM.
“If indeed the drugs and protective clothing are there, our members have made it clear that these should be seen at hospitals," read the statement. "This comes against a background of several promises of medicines and equipment made by the ministry since January this year, with none being fulfilled.
“In addition,” reads part of the statement, “the staked stocks will not last our institutions long (a month to two at most), and we have requested the ministry to set targets and provide timelines as to when the target stocks will be reached, but to no avail.”
The doctors further said the government has not been genuine about paying them in United States dollars.
“According to the collective bargaining agreement 2 (CBA 2) of March 2018, our salaries and allowances are pegged in United States dollars. The employer has been countlessly breaching this CBA, firstly by applying it selectively across the health workers, secondly by implementing unfairly, then unilaterally slashing on call allowances of middle level and senior doctors.
“The ministry did not heed our call to rectify these but has gone on to unilaterally decide to pay us in RTGS. This is a clear violation of the CBA and all we ask is the employer to honour the legally-binding contract and pay us in USD.”
The Zimbabwean government has already indicated that it won’t pay the doctors in United States dollars due to crippling foreign currency shortages.
The doctors, who have dismissed their sacking as a non-event, said the government is also misleading the nation about their salaries.
“The minister (Dr. Obadiah Moyo) went on to inform the nation that the least paid doctor earns USD 1,800. This is not true because we do not earn USD, and the association is yet to see a junior colleague who earns $1,800. We do not know where the minister got this figure.
“Our members take home an average monthly package of way less than this, with the bulk of it being the on call allowance of around $1,000 which the doctor is paid at an hourly rate for working non-stop during ungodly hours of the night.”
The doctors have been demanding an increase of the allowance from $7,10 per hour to $10 per hour. The government promised to increase the on call allowance in 2014 but this has not been met, according to the ZHDA.
The suspended doctors are also demanding the revitalization of a vehicle loan scheme and several other issues.
Dr. Moyo was unavailable for comment.