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Govt Summons Striking Zimbabwe Doctors for Crucial Talks

Health Minister David Parirenyatwa.

The Ministry of Health has summoned striking doctors in Zimbabwe for a meeting Monday to discuss recommendations made by the Cabinet to end the 12-day strike.

A letter written by the ministry's permanent secretary Retired Brigadier General Dr. Gerald Gwinji indicates that the meeting would start in the morning in Minister Dr. David Parirenyatwa’s office.

The striking doctors were not immediately available for comment on this latest development Friday evening.

The cash-strapped government is battling to end the strike by doctors, who laid down their stethoscopes 12 days ago, demanding a salary review and the improvement of their working conditions.

But with no solution in sight, the crisis is deepening with more senior doctors joining the strike initiated by junior and middle-level doctors nearly two-weeks ago, a senior official in the health ministry has confirmed.

Senior consultants at Parirenyatwa, Harare, Chitungwiza, Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospitals said they are now overwhelmed with patients, and are now admitting only those with critical needs.

There are fears also that the strike may spread to provincial and district hospitals that cater mainly for the rural poor.

But despite government promises to address their concerns relating to poor salary and working conditions, the doctors say they will maintain their industrial action, until the government meets at least their demand for review of their on-call and the risk allowances.

But many say that is unlikely, given the demands on the cash-strapped government to pay its more than $250,000 civil service workers

Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) sources said the state entity is struggling to raise revenue to pay government workers.

The sources said ZIMRA is three months behind its revenue collection schedule as it continues to miss targets.

Bearing the brunt of the doctor’s strike are mostly the country’s poor, who cannot afford the high consultations fees private hospitals charge, which start at $10.

In some private hospitals, general practitioners charge $50, while specialists fees can go up to $120.

Despite all this, president of the 400-member Hospital Doctors’ Association Dr. Fortune Nyamande said there is no going back on the strike.

Reacting executive chairman of the Health Service Board Dr. Lovemore Mbengeranwa said the government is operating on a shoe-string budget but is willing to engage the doctors.