By Lovejoy Mutongwiza
Zimbabwe medical doctors yesterday continued with their industrial action, now on its fifth day and have been joined by senior doctors who are also demanding better working conditions.
The strike which started on Monday has paralyzed operations at the country’s hospitals as doctors continue to pressure government to pay them in foreign currency among other grievances.
“The government should reconsider and act on what is affecting the health sector and they know what needs to be done.
“Our members are saying we are not going back to work until the government meets our demands,” Dr Mthabisi Anele Bhebhe, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) spokesperson told 263Chat.
He disputed as unfounded, claims in some sections of the media, which had said they were going back to work.
Dr Bhebhe said they fear that should they go back to work with their demands not addressed, the government might never heed to their concerns again.
“If we go back to work right now without anything having been addressed, the whole issue would have meant nothing. Our call to the government is to just look at the whole medical situation,” he noted.
According to the ZHDA, the least paid doctor is earning a paltry $300 in local currency, a figure which cannot sustain their lives and they want the government to pay in US dollars.
However, the government continues to stand its ground saying it will not pay the striking doctors in foreign currency.
“We don’t want to lie to each other or waste each other’s time. We all know that there is no foreign currency to even buy the medicines which they use in hospitals ley alone foreign currency to be paid to individuals,” Health and Childcare Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo said.
The situation has affected patients, with some having been sent back home.
“We were supposed to have blood tests but they turned us down saying doctors are on strike and we cannot get that done,” said a 60-year-old high blood pressure patient.
Some patients were, however, attended to by the few doctors who have remained on duty.
“We were attended to; we saw our doctor and we had x-ray scans. There are other patients who are affected by the situation who were turned and were told to rebook,” said another patient at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
During his campaign, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a world-class healthcare system but four months into his reign, he seems to be failing to deliver to his promises.