Friday, August 14, 2009

Zim health minister calls on doctors to end strike

Zim health minister calls on doctors to end strike
Written by Kingsley Kaswende in Harare, Zimbabwe
Friday, August 14, 2009 4:08:08 PM

THE crisis in Zimbabwe’s health sector has been renewed, with patients being turned away at government hospitals as a result of doctors who have gone on strike demanding minimum salaries of US $1,000 along with car loans.

But health minister Dr Henry Madzorera has appealed to the doctors to return to work while their conditions of service are being looked into.

In their petition to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the doctors contend that the salary and allowance they were receiving were not enough for their monthly needs.

Currently, they are earning salary of US $220 with an additional US $170 retention allowance from donors, bringing the total amount to US $390.

Hospital Doctors Association president Dr Brighton Chizhande said the doctors’ salaries and allowances were not enough to meet their minimum monthly requirements.

He said hospitals were making a lot of money from charging patients for needles and surgical gloves used on them.

“The association wrote to government with a proposal that government review the salaries as our economy improves, but there was no response. There has been a massive and overwhelming influx of patients at our central hospitals paying consultation fees, money for investigations, procedures and surgical operations,” Dr Chizhande said.

The inclusive government last month started paying civil servants salaries after more than five months of giving them a flat US $100 allowance.

Dr Madzorera, who is himself a medical doctor, said the Health Services Board which is responsible for employing doctors was currently in negotiations with them.

Dr Madzorera said the country was still in a state of recovery and it was premature for doctors to expect market rate salaries.

“We hope they understand we are committed to improving their welfare but it’s a process and cannot be an event,” he said.

The health sector had reached a critical stage last year when almost all hospitals were shut down as doctors demanded better working conditions.

Since the formation of the unity government in February the doctors agreed to go to work, despite not being happy with the US $100 offered to all civil servants.

Increments introduced in finance minister Tendai Biti’s mid-term budget saw their earnings rise to US $390 but they argue that this is not enough to meet their basic needs.

Last week, junior doctors went on strike and this week senior doctors also joined in.

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