Harare Central Hospital intends to shut down its Outpatient Department Friday due to lack of doctors.
In a statement, the hospital’s chief executive officer, a Ms. P.M. Zvavamwe, said the continued industrial action by junior resident medical officers over contracts has made the situation at the hospital unmanageable and unsafe for both doctors and patients.
The hospital said it will only be able to cover dire emergencies. Another major referral center, Mpilo Hospital shut down its Outpatient Department recently, citing the same problems.
Junior doctors, who were supposed to have started duty on the first day of March, are refusing to sign employment contracts. They are arguing that the adjusted contracts are still vague and as a result, violated their rights as workers.
The Health Services Board availed new contracts for the junior doctors with a salary package of $895 per month including allowances, but the doctors have said they will still not take the offer.
Studio 7 failed to get a comment from Harare Hospital and the Ministry of Health.
But Dr. Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said they think the decision taken by the hospital was the best option available.
“It is a sad development and it is an understandable development when we consider the issues which have to do with quality of care which are being addressed by the health care workers who are working in the central hospital,” Bonde said.
She said the doctor-to-patient ratio as it stands now without the junior practitioners was over-burdening middle and senior doctors resulting in poor clinical outcomes for members of the public seeking help at the affected institutions.
"The minister should have come up with a contingency plan by bringing in army doctors. Everybody knew about this contract issue since last December that the junior doctors were not going to sign the contracts," said Dr. Bonde.