Zim risks losing more than 300 doctors to the UK – Biti

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By Anna Chibamu

TOP MDC politician and MP, Tendai Biti has warned Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube the country risked losing more than 300 doctors to the United Kingdom if he failed to address their remuneration issues urgently.

Speaking in parliament Tuesday, Biti, also MDC vice president, told National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda that it was disturbing to note that the UK has offered special exemptions to doctors from foreign countries willing to work there.

Biti said Ncube should consider the doctors’ plight in his Thursday’s $40 billion national budget.

“Honourable Speaker Sir, I rise on the point of privilege and I seek your ruling to direct the Minister of Health to address Parliament on the crisis in the health sector.

“Honourable Speaker, doctors are on Day 69 of their strike and the situation in our public hospitals is a disaster.

“Karanda Mission Hospital in Mt Darwin is now flooded by thousands and thousands of people who are now leaving cities and small towns to go to Karanda seeking healthcare facilities.

“Speaker, I am quite disturbed by the fact that the United Kingdom (UK) government has given special exemptions to doctors from foreign countries wanting to work there.

“Unless we address the situation, we are going to lose over 300 doctors that the country trained and paid for to the UK. So, I am requesting that the minister gives a ministerial statement on the issue.”

Biti continued, “I also want to draw your attention Sir; on Thursday, Finance Minister will present a $40 billion budget. Surely, I pray that the minister finds it in his wisdom that he gives adequate remuneration and funding to doctors and public health institutions.”

In his response, Mudenda said he was going to engage the health minister of the matter.

Hundreds of Zimbabwean doctors September this year embarked on a crippling job action over poor wages and working conditions.

They have refused to heed both government calls and threats to return to work citing financial incapacitation to do so.

Government has responded by firing 286 of them in probably the most drastic labour-based decision by authorities since independence.

Hopes for the beleaguered health professionals was restored this week, albeit outside the country’s borders, when former colonial master, Britain offered special exemptions to doctors from foreign countries willing to work in its territory.

The timing was viewed as an indirect attempt by the rich European country to lure fired Zimbabwean doctors.

At a post-cabinet media briefing Tuesday, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said government was not worried by prospects of losing its health professionals to Britain.