HEALTH and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa has revealed junior doctors who have gone on strike up to date were 391 while admitting they earned “pathetic” wages.
Parirenyatwa said this while updating Senators on the three-week strike by doctors. He said the doctors were justified in demanding a review of their dues.
“The second demand or expectation was that the current pathetic on-call allowance paid to doctors at $360 per month must be urgently be revised upwards to $720 per month as per the 2014 agreement,” the minister said.
Junior doctors downed tools beginning of the month demanding a review of their on-call allowances, the lifting of a job freeze by government as the implementation of the doctors’ vehicle scheme, among others.
Until the strike, their on-call allowances were pegged at $1, 50 per hour.
Parirenyatwa emerged this week to announce a 50 percent upward review of the allowances while urging the striking medical personnel to return to work.
Government has further threatened to withdraw this month’s salaries for its striking staff for absenting itself from work for a continuous period of 14 days.
Despite the threats, doctors have defiantly refused to resume work, describing what was being offered by their employer as far from what they have been clamouring for.
The doctors accused the government of acting unilaterally on resolving the impasse.
In his address to Senators, Parirenyatwa changed tone, saying the doctors’ grievances were genuine.
“As a Ministry, we believe that the doctors have genuine grievances that need to be addressed by this nation,” he said.
He added: “I want to be fair to the doctors, even if you give them 50%, it depends on how much they have been getting in the first place as On Call allowance. So, if you were getting little and it is 50% increase, it is really small. If you are also senior and you get a bit more, it goes on like that.
“This is a very big contention; the doctors want a minimum of $1500 as On Call, before you talk of salary and other things.”
Parirenyatwa conceded government erred in imposing the new allowances outside consensus adding that they have since referred the matter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“The government then offered what they can offer,” he said.
“We did that in a press statement, it was not as if that is what we agreed with the doctors; it is what we offered but the doctors said ‘no, we are not taking this.’
“However, I think we have reached a critical stage because doctors are still on strike and it is unacceptable that it goes on for so long.
“This has now escalated to higher offices, where the discussions are happening. This is where we think the resolution will come from. We jointly hope that this impasse can be solved soon.”
The minister said it was time the government started giving the country’s health delivery system the attention it deserved adding that patients bore the brunt of the current impasse between doctors and their employer.
“The junior doctors are not asking for big things; they want small things.
“They are young men and women and they want to run around. It is not fair for these junior doctors to use public transport. I am just saying let us look at that as a country.”
He revealed the current doctor to patient ratio stood at 1:250 000 people.