By Paidashe Mandivengerei
SENIOR public hospital doctors Tuesday vowed to press on with their strike action even after government has withdrawn their salaries and with their junior colleagues returning to work.
The senior health workers downed tools late November last year in solidarity with junior doctors who had gone for almost three months on strike with government failing to attend to meet their demands.
While a significant number of junior doctors has started reporting for duty, the seniors insist they will only work when their concerns are resolved.
During the prolonged job action by doctors, Central hospitals have been turning away patients as they are operating below capacity.
The medical professionals want their salaries increased, machinery availed, the termination of flexi hours system for nurses and other hospital staff, among other demands.
In an exclusive interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Senior Hospitals Doctors Association (SHDA) secretary general, Aaron Musara said medical specialists’ salaries are being withheld by government and only consultants employed by the University of Zimbabwe were being paid.
“Salaries of specialists directly employed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care were suspended, while university consultants are still being paid.
“As for the specialists whom the government calls supernumerary doctors, these have not been on salary since their appointment, which is very unfair.
“Junior doctors may have resumed duties as in reporting to their stations but how are they going to work with such a severe shortage of tools of the trade.
“Senior doctors are therefore waiting for the hospitals to be retooled.”
According to Musara, government, in its latest engagement with the SHDA, refused to address the doctors’ grievances saying it will only consider doing so if they resumed their duties.
SHDA has however maintained its stance that members will report for work when their demands are met by the health ministry.
“The position of the SHDA is that there is no resolution to the incapacitation of doctors and hospitals. The hospitals remain incapacitated.
“Specialists however continue to offer some emergency services where possible. Shortages of drugs, sundries and broken-down equipment still remain as a challenge.
“The flexi hours system for nurses and other staff still exists unaltered and yet we have made it very clear this has been killing patients. Doctors’ salaries remain low to be able to sustain them even to just go to work.
“The Minister of Health and Child Care informed the SHDA in the last meeting that the position of Government is that they are not going to negotiate with doctors over these issues. The position of government is that doctors must just return to work immediately and report for duty as usual and work. When they get back to work, maybe the government might consider doing something for them.”