By Paidamoyo Chipunza
Disciplinary hearings for striking doctors will start today, with the Health Services Board (HSB) set to pass default judgments on those that abscond the process.
Doctors have been threatening not to attend the hearings, claiming that they did not have transport fares to travel.
The hearings follow revelations that Government would need not less than $4 billion a month in salaries for the health sector only if it were to give in to the striking doctors’ demands.
HSB board chairman Dr Paulinus Sikosana told The Herald yesterday that in the event doctors snub the hearings, the Labour Act provided for default judgments.
“Yes, they have indicated that they will not turn up for hearings, however, the Labour Act provides for disciplinary hearings to proceed even in absentia by those that are supposed to appear before the hearings,” said Dr Sikosana.
He said the HSB had tried to negotiate with the striking doctors on several occasions, but to no avail as they adopted an “uncompromising” stance.
Dr Sikosana said the sticking issue has been pegging their on-call allowances to the interbank rate, a position Government has said was unaffordable.
“The salary bill for the Ministry of Health (and Child Care) is $430 million per month, if we were to use the minimalist interbank rate of USD1:$10, that would translate to $4 billion per month. The Government will go broke, they can’t afford it.
“So what is needed is a compromise stance,” said Dr Sikosana.
He said the situation has also been the same with senior doctors.
Although The Herald could not immediately establish the number of doctors who are set to undergo the disciplinary hearings, sources said almost half of the country’s 1 600 public sector doctors have not been reporting for duty, a majority of whom are from central and provincial hospitals.
Dr Sikosana said Government approached the courts as a “last option and in terms of the Labour Act”, which says that any employee who decides not to report for work without authority for at least five days, should be subjected to legal and disciplinary action “and that’s what we are following”.