MPs Roast Health Services Board Over Purchase Of Luxury Cars While Nurses Strike Over Low Salaries

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By Anna Chibamu

HEALTH Services Board (HSB) commissioners recently took delivery of top-of-the-range vehicles at a time most public health workers are engaged in industrial action in protest over poor working conditions and low salaries.

The HSB is the employer of all public health workers.

On Tuesday, appearing before the Health and Child Care Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, HSB chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana admitted the commissioners took delivery of the latest model of Discovery 6 vehicles.

However, the delivery of the vehicles came when a lot of public health workers across the country have gone on strike demanding better salaries and working conditions.

Sikhosana said the vehicles were sourced by the government but justified the purchase as it was part of their lucrative perks.

“The vehicles that government issued to the HSB are Discovery 6. It is in the context that the HSB conditions of service for board members are standard for those of other commissioners. The vehicles were bought by central government and not by HSB,” he said.

“If central government employs me on certain conditions, it needs to fulfil the obligations in order to retain me or other health workers.

“As a board which is an employer whose conditions of service are key to the Public Service, the previous boards had been allocated vehicles in 2012, so the government has legacy issues to allocate the vehicles,” he said.

However, the MPs expressed their displeasure over how the commissioners were living large and getting lucrative perks while the public health service across the country had collapsed with workers getting low salaries, and working with limited protection from the Covid-19 virus.

“There is a general feeling among citizens and health workers that your board has become one of those commissions and boards that are not adding any value to services required in this country but just gobbling expenses,” Binga North MP Prince Sibanda said.

“You indicated that you are powerless and you have become like a sponge which is used to deflect whatever aspirations in the sector have. Do you think the existence of your board is still necessary under the circumstances you have indicated?

“Dr. Sikhosana you are presiding over a medical service that has become a source of medical ridicule. If you walk into a high school today, no child will want to train as a medical doctor because of what they are seeing. How then do you say you have done your best when this health sector is in such a situation?”

Entumbane-Emakhandeni MP Dingilizwe Tshuma demanded the HSB finds a lasting solution to the plight of public health workers from public hospitals.

“The negotiators are Harare-based, and can we have a lasting solution to the health sector remuneration challenges?” Dingilizwe said.

Sikhosana admitted public health workers were frustrated because there was no equipment and drugs in hospitals.

However, he blamed Treasury for not releasing enough resources for the health workers’ salaries and resources for their operations.

“In terms of conditions of services for health workers, indeed, I will agree that the conditions of work and service are not satisfactory because of the economic performance of the country. We can’t be comfortable when the rest of the workers in the country are not comfortable,” said Sikhosana.