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Govt suspends ‘bunking’ nurses

Government has suspended nurses at public hospitals who failed to turn up for work following the scrapping of the flexible working hours system, a development likely to put a further strain in the country`s health delivery system.

Nurses have been working shorter hours since November 2019 to compensate for their low salaries.

However, recently the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Jasper Chimedza cancelled the flexi-hour system and ordered all nurses to revert back to the 40-hour working week system.

“All categories of nurses are supposed to work for 40 hours per week. However, they have been on flexi-hours since November 2019. The flexi-hours are causing the following challenges, no proper handover and takeover, no continuity of nursing care, compromised quality of patient care, exaggerated shortage of nurses resulting in inadequate ward coverage.

“Therefore, all heads of institutions are kindly advised to stop the flexi working hours forthwith. All nurses should resume normal 40 working hours per week with immediate effect,” wrote Chimedza.

The Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) vowed to continue with the flexi working system until the government reviews their salaries. 

In a show of power, the government slapped all the nurses who defied the order with a misconduct charge and immediate suspension. 

Some of the hospitals who are likely to feel the impact of the suspensions is Mpilo Central Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH).

“You failed to obey a lawful instruction by not reporting for duty after being duly notified to stop the flexi working hours and resume to normal 40 working hours per week (head of ministry letter dated 19 October 2020) and this constitute an act of misconduct on your part.

“Accordingly, you are hereby suspended without pain term of Section 6(1) of the Labour (National Employment Code of Conduct) Regulations, 2006 with immediate effect,” read a letter dated 30 October seen by CITE.

The suspended nurses are set to appear before a disciplinary hearing this week to decide their fate.

ZINA president Enock Dongo the move by the government was “unfortunate” and meant to provoke the situation. 

“It seems there are people who are against the government in the ministry who want just to provoke the situation because it is not necessary. 

“When we demanded for a living wage and the government said they cannot give us a living wage, basically what it means is that we have to find another option and the option was to reduce the number days because truly the nurses are incapacitated. They do not have the money that can take them through the month,” said Dongo.

Dongo said they were still compiling the number of nurses who have been affected and they will provide them with legal assistance. 

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