Nurses to go on strike

HARARE – Nurses have threatened to go on strike next week if government fails to heed their demands for better pay and improved working conditions.

This comes as their 14-day notice for strike has expired.

Teachers have also put President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on notice if it fails to hike their pay and improve conditions of service by the time schools open for second term next month.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) secretary-general Enock Dongo said they will go on strike next week.

“Yes we are striking on Monday,” Dongo said before refusing to comment further.

Nurses are demanding uniform allowances, nurse managers’ allowances, and post basic allowances among other incentives.

They had appeared appeased by the March 30, 2018 collective bargaining agreement negotiated through the Health Service Biparte negotiation panel.

The agreement among other things improved allowances for standby nurses stationed at rural health centres as well as introducing new allowances to nursing staff that acquire approved qualifications.

There was also an introduction of an allowance to nurse managers on a non-claimable rate of $350-$450 per month.

Doctors who embarked on a crippling month-long strike had their pay and allowances reviewed upwards.

Mnangagwa’s government has so far not been able to end the myriad problems affecting the public health institutions.

Apart from having to replace old equipment, most State hospitals and pharmacies are struggling to stock drugs due to poor planning and failure to access foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for the importation of critical medicines.

Zimbabwe is relying on foreign imports for its drugs, equipment and hospital consumables and imports over $400 million worth of basic drugs each year.

Last year, most hospitals struggled to stock critical drugs and vaccines.

Thousands of newly-born babies faced significant health risks after the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which prevents infants from contracting tuberculosis (TB), was temporarily in short supply.

Newly-born babies are vaccinated with BCG to prevent them from contracting TB, which is listed among the top six infant killers in the country.

In 2016, major referral hospitals also had to suspend many services as a result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers — exposing how much things had fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.

United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Harare Central Hospital were among the major health facilities that had to suspend normal services as a result of drug shortages, including pethidine — a synthetic compound used as a painkiller, especially for women in labour and during caesarean operations.

And Binga District Hospital, which is situated in one of Zimbabwe’s poorest regions, was also forced to scale back its services as a result of water and electricity shortages.