211 junior and middle level doctors at Zimbabwe state hospitals who had been striking for two months to press for higher pay have been fired following disciplinary hearings, says an IoL report. Last month, a Zimbabwean court has ordered doctors on the strike over pay to return to work within 48 hours, after a ruling that their boycott was illegal.
The report says Health Service Board, which employs the doctors, had asked the court to force them to get back to work, arguing that they were not allowed to strike because they provided an essential service. The doctors have already said an offer to raise their allowances by 60% was “ridiculous” as it would take their monthly salaries to around 1 700 Zimbabwe dollars ($111), well below their demand of a 400% salary hike.
According to the report, Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst economic crisis in a decade, amid triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of US dollars, medicines and fuel.
Zimbabwean citizens are bearing the brunt of the continuing standoff between striking junior doctors and the government, says a City Press report. The protracted strike by healthcare professionals, who have defied government orders to return to work, is leaving the country’s public hospitals – already stretched for resources because of the country’s economic situation – on the brink of a complete shutdown as soaring inflation, rolling blackouts and fuel shortages take their toll.
The report says at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, located in Harare – one of Zimbabwe’s two biggest referral hospitals in the capital – only a few emergencies are being attended to. Even then, patients have to negotiate pay with doctors and, in some instances, have had to bring in specialists from outside – a draining consequence of the two-month-and-counting defiance campaign being waged.
The upstairs floor at Parirenyatwa, which houses the gynaecological emergency observation wards, is virtually empty bar two or three patients, reflecting the horrendous effect of the standoff between medics and the state.
The report says with no doctors to treat them, patients are being turned away in droves. Hospital officials at Parirenyatwa say they can only accommodate about 50 patients, mostly emergency cases. This falls far short of its usual capacity of 1 000-plus patients. Even when it is fully functional, though, the facility is often oversubscribed, with some patients having to sleep on the floor.
“Most patients are now bringing their own doctors here because those attached to the hospital are not reporting for duty. We have lost some patients because they have been unable to afford the foreign currency that doctors from outside have wanted as payment,” said one insider. A nurse at Parirenyatwa, who declined to be named, said a child who had suffered a snake bite died because there was no doctor available to administer the antivenom.
The report says the government has banned the media from visiting the hospital. Nelson Chamisa, leader of opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change, attracted the wrath of Zanu-PF for visiting patients at public hospitals.
The government has demanded that the doctors return to work while the two parties negotiate and settle the labour dispute, to no avail.IoL report City Press report