Council health workers dread working for the government

The proposed move by the government to  transfer health workers employed by the country’s urban councils to its payroll has caused a lot of apprehension among health workers who dread working under a centralised system, city health authorities have said.

According to Bulawayo City Council’s Director of Health Services, Dr Edwin Sibanda, most applications for vacancies at council clinics were from health workers wanting to leave their central government jobs.

These professionals, Dr Sibanda said, were now demoralised to learn that they would be paid directly by government.

In July, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga informed Parliament that the government was in the process of taking over all health facilities run by councils.

Chiwenga said the move was part of a grand plan to make sure health facilities offered standardised service delivery as envisaged by the National Development Strategy (NDS1).

The move was, however, condemned by activists who said this was against the provisions of devolution of power.

Dr Edwin Sibanda

Responding to questions on the latest developments regarding the takeover of council clinics, Dr Sibanda said BCC was still waiting for trial results from Harare and Chitungizwa where the process has started.

“The latest was the government is starting with Harare and Chitungzwiza maybe to see whether they die or survive. Then whatever becomes of them will inform the next step I suppose. So I think Harare and Chitungwiza can tell us what is happening there on the ground. Are they taking over and if they are taking over, how is it being accepted, how is the takeover and what effect does it have,” he said.

Dr Sibanda, however, lamented that the proposed move had caused uncertainty among health workers.

“I can say from us, it has caused a lot of apprehension and fear amongst our staff. Some are even demoralised because you are asking yourself (about your future),” said the health director, noting that council clinics often attracted many health workers who wanted to work for them.

“If I place an advert tomorrow and say the City of Bulawayo is looking for medical officers , nursing people or any other health personnel, even environmental health officers, 90 percent or more are going to be from the central government, trying to join the council. So you can’t be told soon after joining council that you are now going back to government.”

Dr Sibanda said going back to a former workplace was demoralising, which was why health workers were searching for greener pastures.

In September, the government said it was finalising the process of transferring all health workers employed by the country’s urban councils to its payroll, as a way of averting disruptions in health delivery at a time when the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the first step, the government announced in July that it was taking over the remuneration of nurses employed by Chitungwiza and Harare municipalities following failure by the two local authorities to meet their salary obligation.

Bulawayo councillors raised concern over this transfer of its health workers to the government payroll saying it would lead to a total takeover of the primary health care services from the local authorities.

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