Striking Zimbabwean doctors, who were ordered by the Labor Court on Saturday to end a 23-day strike, are vowing to continue with the industrial action, saying their demands have not been met by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Their demands include salary payments in United States dollars instead of the local bond notes or Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS), improved working conditions, revival of a multi-million dollar state-sanctioned vehicle loan scheme and several other issues.
The doctors’ representative, Dr. Mthabisi Bhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, says they will defy Judge Betty Chidziva’s ruling, noting that the judge also gave the government’s employment agency, the Health Service Board (HSB), permission to dismiss striking doctors and to stop paying them with immediate effect.
“Following the ruling by the Labor Court we have obviously consulted our members regarding the ruling. Obviously we are doctors and we are law abiding citizens and our position right now, most of our grievances that were presented to our ministry have not been adequately addressed and that alone has made some of our members and the majority, infact, to decide not to return to work because there is nothing at work that can be used to help patients in delivering quality healthcare services.
“… Most of our members have shown their intention not to return to work until such a time that they receive satisfactory solutions in regard to their grievances that they raised three weeks ago.”
Dr. Bhebhe says the doctors, numbering over 400, are not worried about the next action to be taken by the Health Service Board. He says all negotiations with government officials, including Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, have been unsuccessful.
“Our position has always been clear that going to work or not going to work as long as our grievances are not addressed our situation and stance remains the same. We are waiting for solutions, we are waiting for those in authority to intervene, to provide the necessary equipment and medicines to assist patients in institutions and for your information most of our doctors, members have not received their December salaries ... And the grievances that we sent to the Honorable vice president Chiwenga have not been addressed.”
The government announced last week that Chiwenga was expected to handle the doctors’ strike, a few months after he dismissed more than 1,500 striking nurses that were demanding a hike in salaries and night allowances and improved working conditions.
VOA Studio 7 was unable to get a comment from senior government representatives about the Labor Court ruling and doctors’ strike. However, Dr. Xolani Ndlovu, acting Clinical Director of Mpilo Hospital in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, says striking doctors have not yet returned to work, resulting in the dumping of most critical services at the state hospital.
“The situation is still the same as at Friday with the doctors not returning to work and at the moment we are facing challenges because of the festive season with increased travelling of people where we normally get an increase in the number of emergencies that present at the hospital. So, the doctors that are here are finding it difficult to cope with the increased workload.
“Unless the strike ends soon, I foresee a problem going forward. The biggest challenge is that we are turning back patients that are not emergencies and that have not been referred otherwise as of the emergencies were are able to manage although with difficulty because of a lower number of personnel on the ground.”