Senior doctors at Zimbabwe’s public hospitals on Thursday gave the government a two-week ultimatum to address their grievances over poor working conditions and payment of salaries in US dollars or risk a full-scale strike that would cripple the already struggling health delivery system.The Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association said its members would down tools from 29 July unless the government positively responds to their demands, which include the need to “make COVID-19 testing readily available in all hospitals so we can be able to offer seamless services.”
They complained that COVID-19 testing of hospital inpatients “remains erratic and the results often take days to come out.”
“At the same time HCWs (health care workers) are put at risk of infection,” the doctors said in a letter addressed to acting Health Minister Amon Murwira.
“We want to be able to run our theatres and other specialist services seamlessly and availing testing and timeous results is paramount.”
Another of their grievances is that government-run hospitals are having serious challenges in procuring and providing appropriate personal protective equipment, thereby exposing HCWs to COVID-19.
Zimbabwe has so far recorded 1,089 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths since the first case was announced in the country in early April.
The doctors also want their salaries to be paid in US dollars, “which is a stable currency which carries predictable buying power.”
The demand by the doctors echoes similar sentiments by other Zimbabwean workers who have been refusing payments in the Zimbabwe dollar, which has been on a free fall since early last year, resulting in a spike in prices of goods and services.
In the letter to the minister, the senior doctors also demanded that the government should address the plight of HCWs in a holistic manner since “we need our other health delivery colleagues present to be able to function well.”
Nurses and other health personnel at Zimbabwe’s public hospitals have not been reporting for duty daily for the past few weeks since notifying the government that their salaries have been eroded by inflation, which stood at 737.3 percent in June.
“The employer should solve their incapacitation so that we can be able to resume normal services ethically and professionally. We need nurses, radiographers, pharmacists, and all others to deliver a reasonable service,” the senior doctors said.
The letter added: “For the avoidance of any doubt, if these issues are not resolved, on the 29th of July 2020 the specialist doctors will no longer be able to continue to stretch themselves beyond measure to offer the little service currently being offered at government hospitals, and shall therefore cease to do any work.”