Call for dialogue as doctors dig in

Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), a local non-governmental organisation working in the health sector, has called for a dialogue between the government and striking doctors to save many lives that are in danger.

Doctors have been on industrial action for nearly forty days now pressing for better remuneration and conditions of service, leaving public hospitals with only nurses to attend to patients.

Patients on periodic reviews are being sent home and told to come back when the medical practitioners return to work.

Engagements between the government and the doctors have not yielded anything.

On Saturday, Health and Child Care Minister, Obadiah Moyo, gave the medical practitioners an ultimatum to return to their work stations on Monday 7, October 2019, failure to which disciplinary measures would be taken.

This was after doctors walked out of the Health Services Bipartite Negotiating Panel (HSBNP), which agreed to a 60 percent increase on health-specific allowances, instead demanding a higher percentage.

The unmoved doctors did not heed the Health Minister’s ultimatum to return to work, forcing the government to take the matter to court.

The Labour Court is thus today expected to make a ruling on the legality of the doctors’ 36 day mass job action.

“The long industrial action by the doctors has had serious repercussions on people’s health including avoidable suffering pain or death,” CWGH Executive Director, Itai Rusike, told CITE.

“Therefore, the CWGH calls upon the doctors and the government to reconsider their hard line positions and re-engage for the sake of patients. We believe re-engagement and continued dialogue are the panacea to the current dispute.”

Rusike said CWGH appreciated both the depressing state of the doctors and the position of the government in the face of worsening economic condition that has practically condemned the majority of Zimbabweans to live lives far below the standards.

“Just like the rest of the workers in the country, the salaries of doctors are not only pathetic but a fraud of unfathomable levels,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that previous dialogues between doctors and the government over salaries and better working conditions have not yielded concrete and long-lasting solutions because the government has always reneged on promises leaving the doctors exposed.”

Rusike urged the government to honour previous and future promises to the doctors to build trust between the dialoguing stakeholders.

“Long-standing grievances simply should not be allowed to build up,” said Rusike, adding ordinary citizens had become sympathetic to the doctors conditions of service and remuneration.

“They (members of the public) know that health workers’ grievances are not being properly dealt with and that their conditions are steadily declining,” he said.

CWGH director said as a lasting solution, the health sector should be adequately financed.

“In recent years, many countries have adopted Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as a national policy priority and have committed to directing government funding towards that goal,” he said.

“Ensuring sustainable progress towards UHC means that Zimbabwe’s public health financing system must routinely generate sufficiently, and largely domestic, resources to achieve health sector objectives within its macroeconomic and fiscal context.”

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