Employer Urges Senior Zimbabwe Doctors to Shelve Planned Strike

Zimbabwe Health Services Board Chairman Paulinus Sikhosana.

The employer of Zimbabwe’s public hospital doctors is appealing to senior doctors who have threatened to go on strike, Thursday, to continue working for the sake of their patients.

The country’s senior doctors issued a statement Tuesday, threatening to “not be able to continue reporting for duty,” starting Thursday, due to the “appalling and disgraceful” conditions of service.”

The doctors have complained about poor salaries of less than US$200 a month, as well as lack of adequate or working equipment to do their jobs.

In the statement the doctors said they were overloaded with work due to the ongoing strike by their junior counterparts and also nurses, and that without a salary increase, they will have no option but to declare incapacitation.

Dr. Paulinus Sikosana, who chairs the Health Services Board, acknowledged the doctors’ concerns, but appealed to the doctors to continue working for the sake of their patients, while government tries to address their concerns.

“The appeal is that while we try to negotiate, perhaps, we appeal to the doctors’ conscious, to in the meanwhile, to look after the lives of patients, especially those that have no recourse to the private medical sector.”

Sikosana said for a start, the government recently equipped some of the hospitals, per the doctors’ demand, with the help of foreign donations from the United Arab Emirates and India.

“The government has expedited their efforts of re-equipping hospitals with the assistance of the government of the United Arab Emirates as well as the government of India, a significant amount of equipment has been purchased,” said Dr. Sikosana.

As for the low salaries, Dr. Sikosana blamed the country’s poor economy which he said has put a strain on the government’s ability to source much-needed foreign capital.

He said in better days, the salary for even junior doctors coming out of university, were competitive.

“We were making progress during the period when the economy was dollarized,” Sikosana explained. “For instance, if you looked at a junior doctor coming straight from university, we had reached a total package of about US$2,200 at that time. But obviously this has been significantly eroded with the fiscal crisis that government is experiencing at the time.”

Dr. Sikosana added that the government has given senior doctors advantages over their junior counterparts, that should cushion them from the economic strains faced by everyone, and urged the doctors to factor that into their actions.

“We have a policy that allows senior doctors to do private practice. We have given them permission to do private practice, even during working hours. One would have thought that at least for them, that would have cushioned them more than the junior doctors. And they have right of admission to bring their private patients to some of the theaters, for instance, Parirenyatwa, and charge them. So one has to take that into account,” he said.

The senior doctors, who had joined their junior colleagues in a strike last month over salaries and also the return of a colleague who had mysteriously disappeared, had briefly returned to work following an undisclosed salary adjustment by the government, but are now threatening to renew their strike, citing government’s lack of action on their demand. – VOA