Saturday, 5 October 2019

RETURN TO WORK OR ELSE : GOVT ORDERS DOCS


DOCTORS in public health institutions have been awarded a 60 percent increment as Government yesterday issued a directive that they abandon their industrial action and return to duty by tomorrow.

Failure to take heed of the directive, Government warned yesterday, will see the defiant doctors facing disciplinary action. 

However, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) acting secretary general Dr Tawanda Zvakada said they would not accept the offer, insisting they wanted to be paid at United States dollar interbank  rate.

The Sunday Mail understands that the latest offer tabled by Government, will see senior doctors pocketing between $8 000 and $11 000 monthly in salaries and allowances while junior doctors earn slightly less.

Doctors have been on strike for the past few weeks, despite Government first awarding them a 30 percent increment on health sector specific allowances such as night duty, on-call and special health allowances, before raising the offer to 60 percent on Friday. Other allowances such as locum rates for doctors, nurses and paramedics and uniform allowances have been increased four-fold while residency allowances were raised to $500 from $250.

In a press briefing yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo implored the doctors to consider the plight of patients and resume duties. 

“Government is grateful to those doctors who remained on their posts of duty delivering care, saving lives and alleviating suffering,” he said.

“For the sake of saving lives of patients, we now call on all doctors (Ministry of Health and University Consultants) to report to their posts of duty at 0800 hours on Monday the 7th of October 2019 (tomorrow). Those who fail to do so are reminded that they are in breach of their contracts of employment and will face disciplinary action. Patient’s lives are paramount.”

Dr Moyo said Government was “appalled” by the doctors’ representatives who walked from the negotiating table on Friday, as authorities had been regularly reviewing wages for medical practitioners.

“Government has shown sincerity by continuously engaging the health workers to address their challenges including implementing programmes that ensure that they have the needed medicines and equipment to deliver medical care,” he said.

“Their remuneration packages have been reviewed consistently in the context of the obtaining economic climate.

“Government is, therefore, appalled that doctors have walked out from the negotiating table and from their patients who are in dire need of their care.” 

On contingency measures authorities had taken to minimise the impact of the strike, Dr Moyo commended those doctors that had remained at work.He said Government will pursue plans to enforce legislation that bars health care workers from staying away from duty as their services are essential to save human lives.

Health Services Board chair Dr Paulinus Sikhosana said the walk-out by doctors during Friday’s meeting was in bad-taste.

“The doctors’ demands were in the context of a negotiating forum, but unfortunately they withdrew from the negotiations so we don’t have a final demand of what they want,” he said.

“However, during negotiations’ with the rest of the health workers, we came to an amicable agreement and collective bargaining agreement is now in place.”

With regards to the specific disciplinary action that will be taken against doctors who do not report for duty, Dr Sikhosana said: “There are disciplinary proceedings we have commenced in terms of the provisions of the Labour Act, which actually states what procedures needed to be undertaken for those workers who have absented themselves from their work station for at least five days.

“This is considered a mass job action and due process will be taken in terms of the relevant provisions of the Labour Act.”

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Minister Professor Amon Murwira said disciplinary action will also be taken against undergraduate and post graduate students who are found guilty of misconduct related to the industrial action.

“We resoundingly rejected that offer because our salaries have lost value by 2 000 percent, against a salary increment of 60 percent. We don’t know who is supposed to subsidise that difference,” said Dr Zvakada. 

“We are currently planning to exit the Health Apex Council because we feel it does not represent our genuine grievances.

“We will remain without any representative body for formal negotiations with Government.

“If the employer really wants us to come back to work, the employer will expedite that.

“We want our salary to match current US dollar interbank exchange rate. We wish we could come to work on Monday (tomorrow), but we can’t we are incapacitated.” Sunday Mail

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