Diana Nherera Herald Reporter
Doctors agreed to end their three-week industrial action yesterday after Government rectified some anomalies on their allowances. Discussions on salaries and other concerns would be addressed as a continuous process.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said the striking doctors around the country would now resume their duties as per their normal schedules.
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ZHDA president Dr Fortune Nyamande said the doctors’ employer, the Health Services Board, on Wednesday rectified anomalies to their allowances such as the on-call allowance and re-introduced the risk allowance, which serves as a form of protection against diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, the Ebola virus and HIV and Aids.
Dr Nyamande said Government had not increased allowances, but rectified anomalies, with on-call rates now being calculated on figures that are actual rates as per public service guidelines.
According to the public service guidelines, doctors would get one and a half times of what they earn in an hour depending on their grade or level. This would be effected in January next year.
However, a visit to Parirenyatwa Hospital and Harare Central Hospital yesterday evening showed that the doctors had not yet resumed work, with indications that they were likely to return today.
A matron at Parirenyatwa Hospital who refused to be named for professional reasons said the situation was still dire as only one doctor, who did not go on strike, was being helped by nurses to attend to patients.
“We are expecting doctors to start arriving tomorrow (today) in the morning,” she said.
“We have heard they have ended their strike, but at the moment the situation remains the same with the only doctor who was not on strike doing all the duties.”
Another matron at Harare Central Hospital said doctors had not yet returned to work.
Dr Nyamande said the doctors would return to work while negotiations were still going on for salaries, housing allowances and the duty free facility on vehicles.
He said meetings were held with doctors countrywide to deliberate on the job action.
At least 150 doctors attended such a meeting at Parirenyatwa Hospital yesterday where progress made in negotiations and the rectifications made by Government on some of the allowances was acknowledged.
“It was resolved that there is need for the ZHDA executive to come up with a negotiating calendar where benchmarks are set to review progress on matters that are grossly outstanding,” said Dr Nyamande.
The rectifications are effective from January 2015 and would be reflective on the doctors’ January payslips.
“What Government has offered should be reflected on our January pay slips, it should be practical and time-bound in its implementation plan,” said Dr Nyamande.
He said doctors at Parirenyatwa Hospital, Harare Central Hospital, Chitungwiza Central Hospital, Mpilo Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals had taken cognisance of what has been offered by Government although it fell short of what their counterparts get in the region.
The Health Services Board said it held fruitful discussions with the doctors on Wednesday.
HSB public relations executive Mr Nyasha Maravanyika said the decision by doctors to return to work was positive and should be commended.
He said Government has always been committed to the genuine concerns of doctors and would continue with negotiations on outstanding issues.
Mr Maravanyika could not been drawn into revealing how much the doctors would receive next year as their new on-call allowances and risk allowances.
“We have not reached that stage, but the two parties, who are the Health Services Board and ZHDA, are happy with the progress made so far,” he said.
“We are not only addressing issues affecting doctors, but the entire health sector.”
Mr Maravanyika said salary increases for doctors would become clearer when the 2015 national Budget is presented at the end of the month.
Doctors went on strike three weeks ago demanding an increase to their monthly salaries from $282 to $1 200.
They also wanted an increase to their housing allowance from $250 to $350 a month and a facility where they could buy cars duty free.