By Alois Vinga
GOVERNMENT, through the Health Services Board (HSB), has suspended over 500 doctors for defying a Labour Court order for them to return to work following their strike action which reached day 24 this Monday.
Both the HSB and the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) have confirmed the development.
According to suspension letters served on the striking health staff, the doctors have been suspended for 14 days and will not be paid any salaries or allowances during the period.
Government will, in the meantime, institute some investigations into their conduct.
ZHDA secretary general Mthabisi Bhebhe said by suspending the critical health staff, government has hammered the last nail on the coffin to the country’s ailing health delivery system.
“I can confirm that the industrial action has escalated and even senior doctors at provincial hospitals across the nation have also joined the action and to that effect, most public hospitals are operating far below capacity.
“This has been caused by the Health Services Board’s failure to address the real issues affecting doctors and instead, they have chosen to drag the association to court and as of now, they have suspended over 500 doctors,” he said.
Bhebhe added, “The situation is so desperate and these guys must just confront the real issues behind the problem.
“For the first time in many years, Zimbabweans have been placed on the losing end as they are denied their rights to health services.”
Health Services Board executive director, Ruth Kaseke said disciplinary action will be exercised on any employee found on the wrong side of the law.
“Disciplinary action is being taken against doctors who did not turn up for duty and any organisation has the right to do so.
“We have a court order in hand and anyone concerned with the matter must be accordingly guided by the ruling,” she said.
On Saturday night, Labour Court Justices Betty Chidziva and Gladys Mhuri ruled that the ongoing industrial action was illegal because the doctors did not follow the notification procedures giving them a 12 hour ultimatum to report for duty.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga had already been assigned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to mediate the government-doctors impasse.
Chiwenga, coincidentally, was fingered as having been the one who ordered the sacking of nurses who had gone on strike April this year.
They were later reinstated.
Strike doctors are demanding US dollar wages from government which insists it has no resources to meet their demands as the country was not generating its revenue in forex.
The doctors also want government to supply medical paraphernalia as it has also emerged some doctors in under-equipped hospitals are being forced to condoms in place of scarce gloves.