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Zimbabwe Doctors' Strike Continues Despite First Lady Intervention

FILE: Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia, right, at the presidential inauguration ceremony in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (AP)
FILE: Emmerson Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia, right, at the presidential inauguration ceremony in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. (AP)

Striking Zimbabwean doctors have dismissed as untrue reports that they have returned to work following a meeting with First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Harare on Friday.

The doctors, who also held a meeting with representatives from the president’s office and health officials and are expected to meet Saturday, noted that the government rejected their request for the payment of salaries in United States dollars, promising a cost of living adjustment sometime this year.

In a statement, members of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said, “… The first lady met with the NEC (National Employment Council) early morning in a bid to end the impasse.

“The doctors clearly outlined the grievances and gave media briefings afterward just highlighting the same. Any other report other than this was clearly false ... the strike is still ongoing.”

The striking junior resident medical officers, senior resident medical officers, registrars and senior doctors have vowed not to return to work until the government addresses their grievances, which include payment of salaries in U.S dollars, provision of essential materials in hospitals and other issues.

They claimed that the government promised during the meeting to avail duty free certificates for all doctors with maximum values for vehicles to be purchased under the state-sponsored scheme.

On salaries, the doctors said, “Govt. says they have no capacity to pay its workers in USD. It also cannot give an on call adjustment at the moment because the budget was already set and there is no room for that.

“Salary adjustment to be done in April and doctors will be part of the negotiating team which shall put forward the proper adjustment during that time to cater for inflation as proposing a figure now may be premature. This means that on call will be adjusted to suit cost of living, no figures yet. The push is to say ‘at the prevailing rate’.”

The striking doctors boycotted hearings conducted at state institutions Friday.

“Hearings to continue next week as a gesture to respect the law but will be done by our consultants. We will not be disciplined by HSB (Health Service Board).”

The government has also promised to cater for the needs of doctors whose December salaries were either cut or unpaid.

“December salaries will be paid in exchange of leave days and hospitals to advance money to any individuals who may need it immediately before the paperwork for December salaries is finished.”

In a turn of events, the government also promised to keep junior trainee doctors under the Ministry of Health and not the Ministry of Education as proposed by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.

Junior doctors have rejected the move saying the Ministry of Education has nothing to do with them as soon as they graduate from tertiary institutions.

In an effort to bring normalcy to the health sector, the government has proposed the setting up of a Health Service Commission next week headed by doctors.

“Its task shall be to take care of doctors’ issues and those of other medical personnel, forgoing the HSB. This Commission will attend to our welfare, working hours, etc.”

Teachers and nurses want to join the industrial action saying they can no longer make ends meet.