Senior doctors join striking juniors; say decision aimed at protecting patients

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

THE crisis facing Zimbabwe’s stricken public health care system deepened Wednesday as senior medical practitioners announced they are joining junior doctors on a strike that has lasted more than a month.

In a statement, the senior clinicians they decided collectively to withdraw their services until the impasse between government and the junior doctors is resolved.

The decision, taken by senior registrars at Parirenyatwa, Harare, United Bulawayo and Mpilo Hospitals, was aimed at protecting patients.

“Following the continued industrial action by junior doctors and their subsequent suspension, we the senior registrars have become overwhelmed by the work-load and are no longer confident we can discharge our duties properly without compromising both our and patients safety,” reads the statement.

“Our work involves working as a team and so if the other crucial part is missing, then we are all rendered useless.

“We share the same grievances as our juniors that of the need for cost of living adjustment need for uninterrupted availability of essential drugs and sundries and need to address the vehicle status of all doctors.

“We have resolved therefore as a group to protect our patients and ourselves to with draw our services until an agreement is reached.”

The junior doctors have rejected repeated appeals by the government to return to work.

They embarked on the job action at the beginning of December, demanding payment of salaries in US dollars, better working conditions as well as improvement in the supply of critical medicines and equipment.

Government responded by suspending more than 500 doctors after the strike was declared illegal by the labour court.

The administration has also ruled out paying salaries in US dollars, arguing that it does not earn its income in foreign currency.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been on vacation, was this week said to have cut the holiday short in order to deal with the crisis.