Tuesday, 8 January 2019

DOCS DIVIDED OVER STRIKE

Cracks have begun to emerge among striking junior doctors after some of them returned to work yesterday as part of an agreement they signed with the Government at the weekend. However, others — in what Government described as political posturing — did not turn up as the illegal job action entered its 37th day yesterday, with the doctors demanding to be paid in US dollars.

Government has rejected this demand, but had offered to implement a majority of the doctors’ grievances.

The Herald learnt yesterday that negotiations were repeatedly disrupted as doctors’ representatives asked to be excused to make consultations on the phone outside, and then reneging on agreed positions thereafter.

The Government however, continued to make concessions, according to sources privy to the negotiations.


But after their long-awaited statement yesterday, the doctors’ representatives said they would continue their illegal action despite everything the Government has done to alleviate their situation.

The doctors went on strike on December 1 last year with a list of 10 demands out of which the Government fulfilled eight, declining to pay salaries in US dollars.
It also insisted that the striking junior doctors must face disciplinary action for embarking on an illegal job action.

Statistics availed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care yesterday show that several medical professionals returned to duty across the country.

A majority of absences were recorded in Harare and Bulawayo, while in Marondera, Gweru, Bindura, Gwanda and Mutare all doctors reported for duty.

A snap survey by The Herald corroborated this. Of the 62 Junior Resident Medical Officers at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, 12 resumed duty while 50 absconded. There are 47 Senior Resident Medical Officers at Parirenyatwa and of these, 12 returned to work while 35 absconded.
The hospital has 27 Houseman Medical Officers and 21 are back at work while six remain on strike.
Of the 20 Senior Houseman Officers employed by Parirenyatwa,14 are at work, one on leave while five are on strike.

All in all Parirenyatwa has in its employment 270 health officers and of these 71 are at work, one on leave while 195 are on strike, statistics show.

In Bulawayo, at United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH) 45 doctors resumed duty yesterday while at Mpilo 17 are back at work. UBH has 184 medical officers, 105 of whom are on duty, two on leave and 60 still on strike. Mpilo has 223 medical officers and 77 are at work, 11 on leave and 103 on strike.
At Harare Central Hospital four doctors resumed duty yesterday comprising three juniors and one senior.

Statistics show that the hospital has a staff complement of 200 medical officers and of these 29 are at work, 11 on leave and 123 are on strike.

Chitungwiza Central Hospital saw three Senior Resident Medical Officers resuming duty.
The hospital has 49 medical officers and of these 27 are on duty, three on leave while 14 are still on strike.

At Masvingo Provincial Hospital out of 12 medical officers, four returned to work, three are on leave and five are still on strike.

Statistics also show that Chinhoyi provincial hospital which has 15 medical officers, none assumed duty, three are on leave, 11 absconded and one is on secondment.
Government yesterday expressed dismay at those doctors still on strike saying it has made a lot of concessions to their demands.

In a statement last night, Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana, said: “Government has bent over backwards and more to accommodate the demands by the junior doctors, including the most extortionate of demands. We put the patients at the centre of all our negotiations as a compassionate and responsible Government. But the doctors were negotiating in bad faith from the word go. Agreements would be signed and hours later press statements would appear rescinding all that would have been agreed. Still the Government would make concessions.”
He said politics was now at play.

“The reason for all these concessions was for the doctors to go back to work and provide the patients with the care they so desperately deserved. We are now where we are because of not only avarice but heartless political interests which take people dying in hospitals as acceptable collateral damage,” said Mr Mangwana.

He said issues raised by the doctors, as evidenced by the terms of agreement signed, had little to do with patients care.

“It is disingenuous to now claim that they are walking away from the suffering patients because of care-based issues. At the heart of their grievance was never an issue of patient welfare. It was always about themselves – cars, housing, food, allowances and money and some other frivolous demands. 

Still Government accommodated them even though there was no doubt that there was a political objective to this charade. We always suspected that some of the demands were calculated to collapse the talks. The doctors always seemed surprised when compromises were made,” said Mr Mangwana.

He said it was clear someone other than the doctors was calling the shots.
“It was clear throughout the negotiations that someone else was calling the shots outside those who claimed to have been mandated to resolve the impasse. The negotiators kept on asking to be excused to go and consult on the phone. Someone else or some other force was micro-managing the process. Regardless, the interest of Government negotiators was to ensure that everything returns to normalcy in the affected hospitals,” added Mr Mangwana.

He thanked doctors who reported for duty yesterday, saying Government would fulfill what it had pledged as a matter of policy.

“We wish to thank those doctors who have remembered why they joined the profession in the first place and gone back to work. They did not do the Government a favour. They just responded to the original call that made them join the profession the first place – to save lives,” said Mr Mangwana.

“Going forward, Government and its institutions will work with those that have the conscience to go back to the wards to save lives and alleviate suffering. We will also employ the measures we have already put in place to enfeeble the effect of this callous and inhuman disregard of the suffering of fellow human beings. Healthcare is a human right. Good health delivery system is at the centre of this administration, hence the amounts that have been invested in healthcare inspite of our current challenges. Zimbabweans should not despair. Solutions are at hand as their Government takes their healthcare seriously,” said Mr Mangwana. Herald

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