Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Junior doctors, many of whom have now been fired for missing five or more days of duty, have backtracked from their earlier condition of an on-call allowance set in US dollars and converted at interbank rate to Zimbabwe dollars, sources say.
This comes against a backdrop of calls for negotiations by the doctors who are arguing that disciplinary hearings and subsequent dismissals will not solve the current impasse in the health sector.
As of yesterday, 77 out of 80 doctors who were scheduled for disciplinary hearings had been discharged from public service after they were found guilty of absenting themselves from work for at least five consecutive days.
The fired doctors, some of whom were staying in hospital accommodation have since been given 30 days to vacate the premises.
They also face the danger of not being able to be registered as medical practitioners able to work without supervision. Medical graduates in Zimbabwe and most other countries have to spend two years between university and full registration working in an approved institution under supervision. Unless they can negotiate re-engagement by the Government or can find similar semi-training berths in other countries they will not be able to practice.
Addressing their members at an emergency solidarity meeting held at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals yesterday, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) spokesperson Dr Tapiwa Mungofa said doctors remain open for dialogue with Government.
“We as the ZHDA, we remain open for dialogue and we have our patients at heart.
“Ordinary citizens are suffering, the most vulnerable, the children and the elderly, the pregnant women are suffering and this (firing of the 77 doctors) is what they have decided to do in order to solve the situation? We are still shocked, again we remain shocked,” said Dr Mungofa.
“Doctors are not unreasonable, doctors are reasonable, but we have not received any communication from the employer so far in trying to negotiate with us, instead we are the ones who have been pushing for negotiations, but again we are in this situation,” said Dr Mungofa.
He said doctors were, however, not moved by the latest decisions of the employer to fire them saying they have been anticipating it.
“We were fired a long time ago and we hope they will come back to their senses and realise that these are the same doctors that the general population is depending on,” said Dr Mungofa.
Health Services Board (HSB) chairman Dr Paulinus Sikosana said the board was simply following labour procedures after the defiance by the doctors.
The Labour Court ruled the doctors mass job action illegal and ordered them to return to work within 48 hours, failure of which disciplinary action would commence.
In addition, Dr Sikosana said the fired doctors had not been reporting for work anyway.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said Government has since advised all its institutions to put in place measures that ensure continuity of service delivery, particularly in emergency cases.
“We are aware that our institutions are constrained, but we will see what we are able to provide with emergency services,” said Dr Moyo.
He said Treasury recently availed US$2 million to buy drugs and sundries.
Dr Moyo said more drugs had been provided by the United Arab Emirates and a team of engineers have arrived in the country from India to commission some of the equipment bought by Government from India recently.
“We are grateful to the doctors who have been providing emergency services irrespective of the industrial action and as Government we are also ensuring that we stock our pharmaceuticals and equip our hospitals, which is one of the issues health workers have been raising,” said Dr Moyo.
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Mr Itai Rusike who is the mediator between the junior doctors and HSB yesterday reiterated the need for dialogue.
Mr Rusike said the HSB and doctors must find each other for betterment of the general public.