Mnangagwa speaks on doctor’s strike
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said government is working on addressing striking doctor’s concerns in the most possible way.
This comes as the health professionals have downed tools for nearly a fortnight, demanding that government addresses their concerns, which include better working conditions and remuneration, among other demands.
Speaking after attending the CEOs Africa Round Table in the resort town of Victoria Falls on Thursday, Mnangagwa — who has been in office after taking over from long-ruling 94-year-old Robert Mugabe last November, said the doctors’ had valid concerns.
“They have legitimate complaints,” he said.
He, however, said government was looking at capacity to meet their needs — “what we can do and cannot do”.
“I have asked (Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa to look at government’s capacity to meet their demands,” he said.
Asked if he was going to intervene and address the impasse, Mnangagwa said the approach was not to discuss the matter in the press.
“It will spoil the negotiations,” he said.
This comes as the job action, the third in recent years, has crippled public health institutions — mainly Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (PGH) and Harare Central Hospitals — that were already facing challenges of oxygen shortages and poor funding due to meagre national budget allocations.
In response to the crisis, PGH management circulated a memo to staffers which read: “The senior resident medical officer (SRMOs) have gone on industrial action with effect from … March 8, 2017.
The division of paediatrics has devised the following emergency measures to best provide patient care in this situation. Out Patient Department (OPD) and OI will close. Ward A2 casualty will close. Paediatrics patients will be screened in the main casualty.
“A guard to be provided to the admitting ward as staff on duty have been threatened and abused by irate patients. Clinics with new born babies for referral to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) must call the NICU doctor on cover before sending. All babies below 1800g to be admitted directly into NICU, nurse on duty will admit and start therapy as per war protocols until doctor on cover attends to the patient. Babies who require review with minor problems will be seen in the post neonatal round only ill newborns to be admitted to NICU to wait doctor on cover review.”
“Due to the skeleton staff available, the following measures have been put in place. C2 is closed to cold cases. OPD is closed. Casualty officers to attend to emergencies only and admit straight to the ward with a management plan. Medical students to see the patients in the ward. Call rooms to be made available. SHO (Senior house officers in a junior position for graduate doctors who are under special training within a certain medical specialty) from OI to participate in the emergency roster,” the memo added.
Apart from better working conditions, the doctors’ demands also include that all current on-call allowances be revised upwards.
They also want the government to honour its word to subsidise purchase of cars and the Health Services Board to urgently implement the agreed vehicle duty-free framework.
In a statement on Twitter, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association has said: “The people should know doctors are tired of being away from the hospital, on strike over the same issues every year because the same individuals at the ministry of Health and Child Care are always not willing to solve the issues that matter.
“Are the people aware that their doctors use public transport to attend to dire emergencies because they cannot afford duty on second hand vehicles imported from Japan? Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that some government doctors that treated them between October 2017 and now were doing unpaid labour?
“Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that the doctors that treat the majority of our population in rural areas only get paid $16 each month as rural allowance? Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that the free healthcare for expecting mothers, under 5s and over 65 is meaningless in hospitals that have no fluids and drugs? Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that their government doctors get $1.50 an hour on-call allowance? For a 30-minute consultation, your doctor gets $0,75 bank transfer.”