Joseph Madzimure and Paidamoyo Chipunza
Fired doctors wishing to get their jobs back must reapply, the Government has said.
This comes as the Government has made moves to reopen Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic in Mbare, Harare, to ease the plight of expecting mothers.
The strike by doctors and council nurses had resulted in hospitals and clinics closing, leaving pregnant women and people in serious need of treatment stranded.
To date, 435 doctors have been fired for illegally withdrawing their labour, with 43 more yet to appear before disciplinary tribunals.
The reapplications are in line with the law and allow the Government to revisit the doctors’ contracts, but it is not granted that everyone will be reinstated.
The reapplication process does not affect parallel negotiations between the Government, junior and senior doctors, which have already yielded positive results, with some of them expressing willingness to return to work.
Five hundred and twenty-three doctors were served with charge letters following the strike which had gone past 77 days, as they continue to press for US dollar pegged salaries.
Most of them failed to attend disciplinary hearings, resulting in them being sacked in absentia.
Speaking during a Cabinet briefing in Harare yesterday, Acting Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said: “Turning to hospital doctors, a total of 480 disciplinary cases have so far been heard. An additional 149 doctors were found guilty and discharged, bringing the cumulative total of the doctors discharged to 435.
“Cabinet was informed of a meeting which was held on 15th November, 2019 between the Minister of Health and Child Care and representatives from the Senior and Junior Doctors Association. While positive strides were made at the meeting, with some doctors showing a willingness to return to work, Cabinet has resolved that those doctors already discharged have to apply for readmission. Government will not rescind its position on the fired doctors.”
In relation to council nurses in Harare, Minister Ndlovu said the situation at council clinics remained constrained, with only 70 out of the expected 138 nurses reporting for duty at the six operational clinics.
He said to ease challenges faced by patients in accessing healthcare, especially pregnant women, Government, in partnership with the local authority, had made arrangements to reopen Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic in Mbare.
“In order to ease the challenges associated with home-based deliveries, the Minister of Health and Child Care has, in conjunction with Harare City Council Health Department, facilitated the opening of Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic,” said Minister Ndlovu.
“Nursing staff from Harare Hospital have been seconded to the Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic, which is open for 24 hours. They will also be working with three Sisters-in-Charge drawn from other City Council clinics.”
Minister Ndlovu said Cabinet was cognisant of an agreement reached between the National Employment Council and the Nurses Trade Union for a salary increment.
“The nurses are, therefore, expected to return to work soon, but will not be paid for the days that they have not been reporting for duty,” he said. “Disciplinary procedures for the striking nurses will definitely be conducted according to the law.”
Regarding accommodation provision for health services personnel, Minister Ndlovu said the Minister of National Housing and Social Amenities informed Cabinet that his ministry was seized with a housing programme to complement accommodation for health workers.
Junior doctors withdrew their labour on September 3 citing incapacitation. Since then, junior, senior and some consultant doctors refused to return to work, defying even a Labour Court ruling, which declared their mass job action illegal.
This prompted the Health Services Board to institute disciplinary tribunals against all the defiant doctors. The doctors remained defiant as they failed to turn up for the tribunals, resulting in the dismissal judgment being passed in absentia.