Paidamoyo Chipunza and Kudzaishe Chinyandura
Disciplinary hearings for junior doctors who participated in the month-long illegal industrial action will proceed as scheduled and will be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has said.
In a statement yesterday, Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji urged the doctors who were returning to work to subject themselves to due process, saying information being peddled that all who presented themselves for the hearings faced summary dismissal was “inaccurate and misleading”.
“While we cannot determine outcomes of disciplinary procedure, we would like to assure all the affected that fair and transparent disciplinary procedures are and will continue to be carried out,” said Dr Gwinji.
He said as per the doctors’ request, senior doctors had been incorporated in the hearings as part of the tribunals and observers to ensure fairness and transparency of the process.
He said for those who resume duty, provisions for applying for advances on their salaries were still available.
“The ministry therefore encourages the affected doctors to subject themselves to due processes and appreciate the commitment of those who have presented themselves for this process. We thank those doctors who have resumed duties at their station,” he said.
The Health Services Board (HSB) further dismissed allegations that it was conducting the disciplinary hearings, when the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), according to the doctors, stated that hearings would be conducted by senior doctors.
“There is no deviation or contradiction as far as HSB is concerned. It’s just a continuation of a process that had already started. The agreement provided for the inclusion of senior doctors during hearings and the board has incorporated them in those cases that had not already started,” said HSB chairperson Dr Paulinus Sikosana.
He, however, said the board could not comment on the outcome of the hearings now, since they were still ongoing.
“Disciplinary proceedings continue as guided by the law for those presenting and those not presenting themselves. The board will continue to respect the rule of law in line with the decision of the Labour Court and is committed to implement the CBA as signed by both parties,” he said.
He said despite continued withdrawal of labour by some doctors, Government remained committed to all other concessions agreed upon in the CBA. Dr Sikosana also dismissed as lame allegations on social media that doctors who returned to work had been bribed.
The disciplinary hearings began last week on Friday and as of Tuesday, 35 members had presented themselves, with 238 others defaulting.
By midday yesterday, a total of 187 junior doctors had reported for work at their various work stations. It could not be established whether all the 187 had since gone through the disciplinary process.
The disciplinary hearings were necessitated by a Labour Court ruling that the industrial action, which enters day 39 today, was illegal.
Meanwhile, 16 newly graduated junior doctors who completed Part V of their Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees at universities in Zimbabwe, and foreign-trained doctors who successfully sat for the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe examinations have been absorbed into the health sector.
Dr Gwinji said the 16 had since been deployed to their institutions of choice.
“A number of them have made inquiries and some have taken offer letters, which they will then present to the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council for registration and immediate deployment to their institutions of choice,” said Dr Gwinji.
Asked if recruitment of the new junior resident medical officers (JRMOs) would have a bearing on the readmission of JRMOs on strike, Dr Gwinji said this had nothing to do with replacement of posts already filled.
“It is the norm that every year we recruit JRMOs and this year alone we had 90 open posts for the JRMOs, which these graduates are coming in to fill,” said Dr Gwinji.
He said this year alone, slightly above 100 students had successfully completed their Part V and were ready for internship.
He, however, said the figure varied annually.