Zim doctors still on strike, says union as divisions rock health staff

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By Anna Chibamu

THE crippling five-week strike by public hospital doctors is far from over after an undisclosed number of medical practitioners have elected to stay at home, arguing that government did not place concrete pledges to meet their demands.

This was revealed in a Monday statement by the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) following weekend reports they had finally resolved to end their job action on the back of government assurances their concerns were going to be addressed.

In a statement, ZHDA said the majority of its members have resolved not to report for work until government was clearer on its pledges.

“Following the Collective Bargain Agreement between government and the health workers, the ZHDA was given the mandate to engage its members to return to work within 48 hours ending today (Monday) 7 January 2019 at 1700 hrs,” read a Monday statement attributed to the ZHDA information desk.

“The ZHDA members nationwide however felt that the agreement did not take cognisance of their immediate incapacitation in a raging economy as no current offer was made on the remuneration of the Doctors to improve their welfare.

“Additionally, there were no timelines and evaluable targets for the provision of Drugs and protective equipment to government hospitals.”

Zimbabwean doctors downed tools beginning of last month to press for, top among the list, US dollar wages, drugs and some medical equipment to use in their different work stations.

Government has used a carrot and stick approach in its handling of the delicate matter.

However, the defiant medical staff has refused to bow down to government intimidation while insisting on their demands being met.

The ZHDA further said Monday that for the past 3 months, it had implored its employer to address doctors’ concerns.

The country’s doctors said they had no transport means to report to work as they did not have money while the fuel scheme remained “obscure”.

“The ZHDA members have therefore remained incapacitated and will not be able to resume normal duty till these matters have been addressed by their employer.”

“It is important to note that the few available ZHDA members who showed up for duty in various hospitals have done so as a sign of good faith and remain in solidarity to (sic) those at home.”

In a later interview Monday, ZHDA secretary general Mthabisi Bhebhe said only a few doctors had returned to work but the majority chose to stay at home.

“Only a few of us have returned to work but, the rest have not reported for work as agreed upon because the government has not met our demands,” said Bhebhe.

Pressure mounts on government to review wages for its restive workforce as teachers have also threatened to join the strike over the same grievances.

The demands for US dollar wages comes after the country has experienced a wave of steep price increases that have wiped out what had remained of their RTGS wages’ buying power.

Government says it has no means to meet its workforce’s forex demands.