Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government is still working hard to address challenges facing employees in the health sector despite concerns by worker representatives at the pace at which the State was moving, the Health Services Board (HSB) has said. In an interview with The Herald yesterday, HSB chairman, Dr Paulinus Sikosana said according to the minutes from Thursday’s Bipartite Negotiating Forum (BNF), issues brought to the table were issues Government was already seized with and working flat out to address.
“The vehicle loan scheme, which was one of the issues brought to the table is something Government is already working on. Of course the amendment of the Statutory Instrument 63 to accommodate vehicles less than 10 years has taken a bit of time, but these are issues the Ministry of Health (and Child Care), the Ministry of Finance (and Economic Development) and ZIMRA (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) are working tirelessly on,” said Dr Sikosana.
He said on the other hand, the vehicle loan scheme itself was being implemented and workers with free funds were getting their duty free certificates.
“So far there are 18 applications from employees with their free funds waiting for duty free certificates and they are currently being processed and as we speak, all the US$10 million has been allocated,” said Dr Sikosana.
The Fund is revolving and more workers are expected to benefit as others pay back.
Dr Sikosana said the agenda item on cost of living adjustments was an issue affecting all employees, including those outside the health sector and can therefore not be addressed through the BNF.
“This is an issue Government is looking into and as far as we are concerned Central Government has already indicated that there will be a review on cost of living in June and that is what we advised them,” he said.
On the issue of work environment, Dr Sikosana said although the workers did not specify their challenges the common issues were to do with drug supply, protective clothing and functioning of equipment, which President Mnangagwa and Minister of Health Dr Obadiah Moyo have committed to address.
“Government is already seized with these issues from the highest office and there is that commitment that Government is working to improve the working environment for health workers. Some of these improvements might not happen overnight, but Government is working on them,” said Dr Sikosana.
He said the other item on the agenda was to do with flexible working hours especially for nurses.
“There is nothing controversial about this issue. The meeting agreed that flexible working hours for nurses should continue,” said Dr Sikosana.
Although the workers have indicated their intention to down tools until these issues are addressed, Dr Sikosana said the Board was still open to negotiations.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) President Mr Enock Dongo however said the Health Apex Council failed to agree with the employer in Thursday’s meeting and were therefore considering alternative options to express their grievances.
“All health workers have agreed to issue a 14-day notice to the HSB to address the issues that were raised,” said Mr Dongo.