Zimbabwe offers nurses, doctors US$37 risk allowance to fight coronavirus


HARARE – Doctors and nurses have described as an “insult” government plans to pay them an extra US$37 as a risk allowance for handling coronavirus patients.

Health workers went on strike last month demanding risk allowances and personal protective equipment, and only returned to work after the government committed to work on some of their grievances.

A schedule released by the Health Service Board on April 1 shows that nurses and doctors who are classed as “high risk” will be paid a monthly risk allowance of 1,500 Zimbabwe dollars (about US$37). Pharmacists, cleaners and laundry staff will be paid 900 Zimbabwe dollars while other health workers will receive 600 Zimbabwe dollars.

The Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights said doctors would not “sacrifice themselves.”

“It’s an insult to the doctors who are the frontline soldiers right now in this battle (against coronavirus). We were already demotivated coming out of a strike, and this will demoralise a lot of doctors. Some doctors have already indicated they will stay home than risk their lives for a pittance,” said Dr Norman Matara, the secretary of the ZADHR.

Health workers were reportedly holding out for 10,000 Zimbabwe dollars, but the broke government said it could not afford.

Dr Anele Bhebhe of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors association blasted: “The government is sending health workers as sacrificial lambs for slaughter. The risk allowance offered is just ridiculous. These cadres are working without protective gear in a very unsafe environment. Certainly, they deserve to be compensated better.”

One doctor, who said he had refused to turn up for work at a hospital where he was working, said on Twitter: “Doctors look out for yourselves, no-one will.”

Zimbabwe has declared eight coronavirus cases including one death but health experts and opposition say the figures are understated, which the government denies.

Health experts say the looming winter months, also known as the ‘flu season’, could bring the health system to breaking point as thousands mistake their normal flu symptoms for coronavirus and throng already stretched health institutions.

The rush on hospitals could see those infected with coronavirus passing it on to healthy individuals. – ZimLive