Govt to ‘freeze’ striking doctors’ salaries

Doctors and other medical practitioners who continue participating in the ongoing industrial action risk losing their salaries and allowances, a senior official has said.

Zimbabwe health sector on the brink

In a statement, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Retired Major General Dr Gerald Gwinji said heads of department should freeze salaries for those who are not at work.

The industrial action entered day 22 today.

“The withdrawal of services by some doctors entered its 20th day on Tuesday. Heads of institutions are duly reminded of the provisions of the PSC Circular number 18 of 2000 referenced C/269 which states that all heads of offices, heads of department and heads of ministries are directed to cease salary and allowances for members who absent themselves from duty without authorised leave of absence,” he said in a letter addressed to hospital chief executive officers and provincial medical directors.

“The salary and allowances should be ceased immediately on the 14 day continuous absence of duty by advising the Salary Service Bureau directly,” said Dr Gwinji.

In response, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association Dr Mxolisi Ngwenya said the threat was tantamount to sabotage of the health sector and the Government as a whole. “It is a worker’s right to go on industrial action and the Ministry needs to respect that. Furthermore, we informed them of our intent to strike 21 days in advance. Their failure to resolve our genuine issues has frustrated the Ministry to resort to a scorched earth policy of threats and trying to divide ZHDA members” said Dr Ngwenya.

“We will see if threats will treat patients or put medicines in hospitals. The ministry should wake up and fix the root issues instead of resorting to threats.”

Doctors downed tools on March 1 after petitioning Government to address their issues which include allowance payments and provisions of medicine and equipment.

Government on Tuesday announced it had reviewed allowances for the health sector and established a vehicle loan scheme.

“We appreciate continued service provision under difficult circumstances by all health workers. We therefore expect all doctors who have withdrawn their services to report for duty with immediate effect,” read the statement.

“On-call allowances have been reviewed upwards by 50 percent and locum payment of all outstanding locum claims commenced in February 2018.”

“A vehicle loan scheme for all health workers has been established and furthermore, Government in December 2017 disbursed $22 million from the Health Levy Fund to support the procurement of medicines, hospital sundries and equipment. Government continues to accord the health sector priority status in foreign currency allocations for the procurement of medicines, medical sundries and equipment,” it said.

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