Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Zimbabwe Doctors Strike: Patients Left Stranded Countrywide
October 28, 2014
Loveness Bepete/ Harare Bureau
Zimbabwe Chronicle

PATIENTS were left stranded at major Government hospitals yesterday after service delivery was paralysed by a nationwide strike by junior doctors who are demanding that their monthly salary be raised from $282 to $1,200. More than 300 doctors mainly from Government central hospitals and some district hospitals joined in the strike that started yesterday over salaries and poor working conditions.

In Bulawayo hundreds of patients were left stranded at Mpilo Central Hospital, the biggest referral centre in Matabeleland, where notices informed patients that doctors would only attend to “emergencies.”

“Please note that doctors are on strike. Only dire emergencies will be attended to. All outpatient clinics are hereby suspended till further notice,” read a notice posted on a board at the hospital.

The situation was the same at the United Bulawayo Hospitals.

Patients at Mpilo, some of whom were in agony, said they had arrived at the hospital early in the morning only to be told that doctors were on strike and would only attend to critical cases.

Hlangabeza Tshuma, a patient who had a swollen hand said he was in unbearable pain and felt hopeless after reading the notice boards.

“How does someone determine a dire situation? I’m the one in pain and so l know better. It’s just unfair for doctors to say that,” he said.

A woman who identified herself only as Mathonsi said in the morning some relatives left the hospital with distressed patients after realising that they could end up dying in queues.

“I came with my two-year-old daughter in the morning, she can’t walk or stand on her feet and I don’t know what to do. I can’t take her back home as we failed to sleep yesterday,” she said.

Elizabeth Ndlovu said she feared for her cousin who was continuously bleeding.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) media and publicity officer Francis Rwodzi said over 300 doctors did not report for work yesterday.

He said the least paid doctor earns $282 per month and they are demanding $1,200 exclusive of incentives.

Rwodzi said the association would only negotiate if the government brings something tangible to the table.

“We won’t attend to meaningless negotiations with the government. As of now there’s been no communication from the government. What we want aren’t meetings but tangible solutions,” he said.

Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa said the government is taking doctors’ grievances seriously.

“The government takes doctors’ grievances seriously and l can’t tell when the matter will be resolved as negotiations are underway”.

He said the issue needed to be resolved quickly as the ministry does not want to see patients suffering.

“I believe we’ve to resolve their grievances quickly as we obviously don’t want patients to suffer at any cost,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.

Meanwhile, there was chaos at Parirenyatwa Hospital where patients packed the casualty department while waiting for long hours to be attended to by the few doctors available.

The hospital’s chief executive officer Thomas Zigora declined to comment on the strike.

Workers at Harare Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity said doctors were not attending to patients at the outpatients department because of the strike, but were attending to emergency cases only.

ZHDA president Dr Fortune Nyamande said doctors and other health professionals went on strike because meetings with the Ministry of Health and Child Care over their “poor working conditions” were not fruitful.

ZHDA president Dr Fortune Nyamande said doctors and other health professionals went on strike because meetings with the Ministry of Health and Child Care over their “poor working conditions” were not fruitful.

Apart from a salary increment, the doctors want an on-call allowance, which is money they are paid when they are called for duty outside of their normal working hours, to be reviewed upwards from 50 cents to what they call an acceptable amount.

“We also want our housing allowances to be reviewed upwards to $350 as we are currently getting $250, which is inadequate and we want a facility for buying cars duty free since our job requires us to work even during odd hours,” said Dr Nyamande.

“It makes sense for doctors to be able to buy affordable cars.”

The doctors are also asking for a risk allowance for handling diseases such as Ebola, HIV and Aids and Tuberculosis which they say put them at risk.

The doctors said they gave government an ultimatum to address their grievances, but they did not get a response, resulting in them striking.

At Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital and Masvingo General Hospital, it was business as usual as doctors there had not yet joined the strike.

A survey conducted by our Masvingo Bureau showed that doctors had reported for duty at such busy hospitals like Chivi District Hospital and Chiredzi District Hospital.

Acting Masvingo Provincial Medical Officer, Dr Amadeus Shamu, said all doctors reported for duty normally.

Junior doctors at Chitungwiza Central Hospital were also at work.

It was also business as usual at Mutare Provincial Hospital as doctors had reported for duty and were attending to patients.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Parirenyatwa urged the doctors to return to work as they were an essential service.

He advised them to interact with the government and the Health Services Board to discuss their grievances on their working conditions.

“It is important to highlight that only junior doctors, that is, only those doctors who are on housemanship, are on strike and not all doctors,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.

“As Ministry of Health and Child Care, we urge striking junior doctors to return to work and government will do everything to make sure that normalcy prevails in hospitals.”

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