Junior doctors dismiss government call to end strike; adamant on US$ salaries

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By Leopold Munhende

STRIKING junior doctors have vowed to continue with their job action which started beginning of this month, despite government calls for them to return to work while their grievances were being looked at.

Speaking at a press conference in Harare Wednesday, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) secretary general, Mthabisi Bhebhe maintained that government should avail drugs, medical and surgical sundries as well as commit to paying their salaries in foreign currency before they could consider calling off the strike.

“We know that the market is now demanding US dollars,” Bhebhe said.

“For you to get any medication, you need US dollars; for you to buy basic commodities, you need US dollars; school fees in January, they are charging in US dollars.

“So these are factors we are telling our employers…we believe it is the duty of our employer to also take care of their employees.”

Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo Tuesday urged the critical health staff to consider the plight of their suffering patients by returning to work.

Moyo said plans to remunerate its health staff using US dollars were remote as government would naturally prioritise procuring medicine with the scarce currency at its disposal.

However, the striking doctors insist government should find other means to meet their demands.

“We do not believe that the government has nothing to offer.

“The situation is not affecting doctors alone. The situation is affecting the citizens of Zimbabwe and we believe our leadership and government have something to offer to its people and its citizens,” said Bhebhe, who expressed worry at government’s continued delays in addressing the issue.

“You will notice that the industrial action started on the first of December and it started with junior doctors and it was done so, so that our seniors could continue seeing patients.

“It was actually a deliberate move to tell the employer that the situation is no longer normal on the ground and it warrants urgent attention but today, we have seen that even middle level and senior doctors are considering joining.”

Bhebhe, who is based at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo, said all government hospitals where operating way below capacity.

“It was out of this that we sought conference with the media to tell you that the situation in our hospitals is not good,” he said.

“As a doctor, you have to be psychologically stable with no place to sleep. You have to be mentally stable…it is unfortunate that today, we are entering the second week and nothing has been done.”

Patients who spoke to at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Harare earlier this week expressed mixed feelings over the strike with most expecting mothers calling on doctors to respect the sanctity of life while others blamed government for the industrial action.

There are growing concerns the absence of doctors at public hospitals may result in unnecessary loss of life during the current festive season where road accidents are common.

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