Paidamoyo Chipunza and Kudzaishe Chinyandura
More doctors yesterday heeded Government’s call to return to work and joined their colleagues who reported for duty on Monday. In a statement yesterday, Government said all doctors who had been on strike at Marondera, Bindura, Gweru, Gwanda and Mutare provincial hospitals had returned to work.
This is in addition to the 340 doctors who have returned to work in Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and Masvingo.
Of 340 doctors, 105 were from United Bulawayo Hospitals, Mpilo Central Hospital (77), Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (98), Chitungwiza Central Hospital (27), Harare Central Hospital (29) and Masvingo provincial hospital four.
None of the striking doctors at Chinhoyi Provincial Hospital have reported for work.
The numbers of doctors returning to works flies in the face of claims by the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) through its Twitter handle that Government’s decision to pursue disciplinary hearings against doctors who violated the law had discouraged them from ending the strike.
“The employer’s position of holding hearings and victimising members who had opted to return to work has backfired. Doctors who had resumed work at Mpilo Hospital have rejoined the industrial action,” claimed the ZHDA.
However, Mpilo clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said six more doctors reported for work yesterday.
He said from the doctors who came on Monday, only three did not return yesterday.
“The situation seems to be normalising. We are able to attend to emergencies. Although three doctors who had initially reported for work on Monday did not come today, six more showed up,” said Dr Ngwenya
Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals operations director Mr Edson Mundenda said more doctors also reported for work yesterday.
As of midday, Mr Mundenda said 11 junior registrars, eight senior registrars, four senior houseman officers (SHOs) and three junior resident medical officers (JRMOs) had reported for work.
However, the number of senior resident medical officers (SRMOs) who reported for work remained at 12.
Chitungwiza Central Hospital operations director Mr Washington Machiridza said more SRMOs reported for work yesterday.
These latest developments follow a ZHDA voting process to continue the strike on Monday, which some doctors voted against.
Sources close to the process said about 15 percent of striking doctors from Parirenyatwa and Harare Central Hospital voted against continuing the strike.
They further said while UBH voted for the strike, Mpilo Hospital voted against.
“At the end of the voting process, about three quarters of ZHDA members did not want to continue with the strike,” added the source.
Commenting on how events were folding, public health analyst Mr Itai Rusike said doctors were also individuals with different financial responsibilities and considering that those taking part in the strike had their salaries withdrawn, some could no longer sustain living without a salary.
“Some need rentals, food and now schools have just opened, they need fees for their children and seeing that this strike is not taking them anywhere, others might give up slowly,” said Mr Rusike.
He, however, said in the interest of suffering patients, it was high time Government and the striking doctors found each other.
He said the doctors must consider other concessions which Government had put on the table given the limited fiscal space after the budget announcement.
“The doctors must appreciate the economic situation. It is not all about monetary issues; they should consider other non-monetary incentives which Government can offer,” said Mr Rusike.
He, however, said Government itself must also be clear on what it was offering and what it cannot offer at the moment to gain employees’ trust.
Today, marks 38 days after the ZHDA called for an industrial action demanding a review of remuneration and better working conditions. The strike was, however, ruled illegal by the Labour Court.
On the other hand, Government has made several concessions which some of the doctors have turned down, insisting that they be paid in US dollars.