The Zimbabwean government says it will withhold salaries of striking junior doctors, who have been staging an industrial action over poor conditions of service, low allowances and other issues.
In a circular to top state officials, Healthcare Secretary Dr. Gerald Gwinji said the strike, which entered its 20th day on Tuesday, was not sanctioned by relevant authorities.
“The withdrawal of services by some doctors entered its 20th day on the 20th of March 2018. Heads of institutions are duly reminded of the provisions of the PSC (Public Service Commission) Circular number 18 of 2000 referenced C/260 which states that all heads of offices, heads of departments and heads of ministries are directed to cease salary and allowances for members who absent themselves from duty without authorized leave of absence.
“The salary and allowances should be ceased immediately on the 14th day of continuous absence from duty by advising the Salary Service Bureau directly.”
However, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president Mxolisi Ngwenya said they are not worried about the withholding of their salaries.
“This circular does not change the position of doctors and does not solve the issues that we are raising like shortages of drugs in hospitals and they are not paying us enough so that we can attend to patients … We are definitely not going back to work up until a point in time when they stop using the media and reactions of people on the circulars that they are using to threaten them to try and solve issues instead of facing the reality that hospitals have no drugs and doctors are underpaid and overworked.”
Dr. Ngwenya further dismissed as untrue utterances by Health Minister David Parirenyatwa that doctors have settled for a 60 percent increase in their allowances and promised to return to work.
In an earlier statement, Ngwenya said, “The ZHDA would like to set the record straight that what was announced by the Minister of Health and Childcare, Dr. David Parirenyatwa on state TV in the evening of the 19th March 2018 is totally untrue. No agreement whatsoever has been reached and Zimbabwean government doctors are still on strike.
“It is with sadness that we have to announce to the entire population of Zimbabwe that they have been blatantly lied on state TV. The ZHDA is yet to find out what such untruths, of such immense proportions, are meant to achieve.”
The doctors said they are waiting for the minister to come to the negotiating table in order to address their grievances, which include lack of medical equipment in state hospitals and an improvement of their working conditions.
“How can the minister say a resolution has been found when none of the issues that led to the strike have been addressed? Even if doctors were to buy into the propaganda and return to work, they would be equally culpable of hoodwinking the population into believing that the hospitals are not fully operational.
“There are still no drugs in the hospitals, even if his untruth, this minister totally omitted to mention anything about what he has done to address the lack of drugs and equipment in hospitals. So, what would the doctors be returning to work for? To start at patients and watch as the suffering and dying continue?”
The doctors said Dr. Parirenyatwa also forgot to mention his promises made in 2014 to increase call allowances to $10 hour instead of the current $1.50 per hour.
“… Instead he goes on about 50% increments. Fifty percent of nothing is nothing! Or is he saying the nation should believe that doctors have agreed to an increase of on call allowance by 75 cents transfer per hour/ Even the public would be suspicious of doctors who agree to such a dubious offer!”
Dr. Parirenyatwa was not reachable for comment.