Council workers’ strike leaves patients in a lurch

People suffering from chronic ailments have expressed concern on the suspension of critical services such as primary health care services after Bulawayo City Council (BCC) workers embarked on a strike, saying they are failing to access their medication.

Council workers have downed tools over poor salaries.

A patient from Magwegwe who spoke to CITE, Margaret Tshuma said she has failed to access her Tuberculosis (TB) treatment for the past two days at her local clinic.

“I went to Magwegwe clinic yesterday to take my TB medication, so usually we don’t queue as we are given first preference, in fact, I found the gate closed and inquired on what is going on, I was immediately told that the sister in charge is not in and she told people to go home as they are not receiving patients since nurses were not around,” said Tshuma.

“I stayed there hoping that they are going to assist me when they see me outside as they encouraged us not to skip TB medication, we must continuously take the medication. I last received my medication on Wednesday, so I was supposed to go to the clinic to receive my pills for Thursday and the other days”.

“After some time, a sister came outside looking for another patient who was also with us, apparently that man had done blood tests days back so they called him to collect his results, they told him whatever they told him just outside there,” she narrated.

Tshuma said the sister in-charge at Magwegwe Clinic only told patients to go home as there is nothing they can do.

Tshuma added that she went again to her local clinic on Friday but did not receive any assistance.

“Today I did not see the presence of the sister in charge. I only saw a patient seated outside who was also referred by the private doctor there to undergo TB treatment at the clinic, her family ended up taking her to Mpilo Hospital.

“A staff member who wanted to gain entrance at the clinic came later on and we tried explaining to him that since we were told to not skip medication what should we do, he responded by telling us that they were on strike.”

Another patient on Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment also expressed the same predicament.

“I do not know what to do as we collect these from our local clinics only, but since they are on strike, I am now really desperate and not sure what to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers Union (ZUCWU) Bulawayo Branch Chairperson, Ambrose Sibindi said BCC health services are receiving peanuts and will stay off duty until they reach an agreement with the employer.

“This is not a strike, it’s an incapacitation, we are not on strike but we do not have money to go to work, we can’t even walk there as we no longer have the energy to do that, but we are not on strike”.

“Concerning how long it is going to last, once we reach an agreement and have compromise, we are going to stop, at the moment nobody knows how long it is going to last,” said Sibindi.

Contacted for a comment, the Acting Town Clerk Sikhangele Zhou encouraged patients to seek services from other health service providers as engagements with the workers are still ongoing.

“Engagements are continuing with the workers; we are still engaging. If patient can’t access the services from other service providers, they can bear with us, we hope to find a solution soon with the workers, we hope to be able to break the impasse soon, but if they can, they can seek services from other health service providers if it is truly urgent. We apologise for the inconvenience,” said Zhou.

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