Doctors call nationwide strike; cite medicine shortages, fuel crisis and US$ salaries

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By Staff Reporter

GOVERNMENT doctors have called a nationwide strike, citing what they described as “severe incapacitation and inability to withstand the current disabling working environment”.

The development increases pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government at a time the administration is buffeted by a deepening economic crisis.

A biting shortage of foreign currency has seen the country struggle with a fuel supply crisis that has seen in motorists spending hours, including overnight, in long queues at filling stations.

In a letter to the Health Services Board (HSB) seen by, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said it was calling a nationwide strike beginning December 1.

The association accused government of failing to address repeatedly raised concerns about the “deteriorating state of the healthcare system in the country”.

“It is regrettable therefore to note that as a result of failure on the part of the Ministry to urgently attend to these challenges, doctors are now finding it impossible to continue discharging their services in hospitals,” the letter reads in part.

Of particular importance is the recently experienced acute shortage of fuel and increase in transport costs which has overwhelmed and incapacitated healthcare personnel to urgently attend to their duties.”

The doctors said government should urgently deal with the “acute shortage of vital medicines and basic theatre consumables” as well as the problem of private pharmacies demanding payment in US dollars and rejecting medical aid.

In addition, the association also wants the Mnangagwa administration to address “inadequate remunerations in Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) in place of United States Dollars as stipulated in our previous binding agreements”.

The strike comes at time of increasing agitation in the ranks of the civil service with teachers also threatening industrial action over demands for salary hikes and payment in US dollars.

Last week, the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) threatened to set up camp at finance minister Prof Mthuli Ncube’s officers if their wage demands are not addressed.

Prof Ncube has introduced tough austerity measures which he says are necessary to set the country’s crisis-hit economy on the path to recovery.

He is also looking to reduce the government wage bill which has over the years gobbled up to 90 percent of the administration’s income.