Almost two weeks after health workers went on strike demanding a review of their remuneration and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), the government has not done anything tangible to resolve the impasse.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo has not uttered a word about the crisis facing most of the country’s public hospitals.
It is business as usual for the government even as thousands of people are being turned away from health facilities due to the unavailability of health workers.
So far the government has only responded by threatening nurses at Parirenyatwa Hospital with eviction as a way of intimidating them to abandon the job boycott.
The strike coincided with a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country amid indications that local infections were on the rise.
Some of the grievances raised by the health workers such as lack of provision of PPEs are a matter of life and death and as such they should be non-negotiatiable.
Health workers have for several months been calling on government to meet their demands, but the authorities continued to turn a blind eye.
The inertia by Moyo and his lieutenants exposes President Emmerson Mnangagwa as uncaring and far removed from the daily struggles of ordinary Zimbabweans who are being deprived of their rights to health care.
Since Mnangagwa took over power from the late Robert Mugabe in 2017, health workers have engaged in several job boycotts demanding better remuneration and improved working conditions.
The country’s major hospitals are in a sorry state due to years of neglect and the conditions tend to put the lives of both health workers and their patients at great risk.
For two years, Mnangagwa’s government has failed to put in place plans to equip the health facilities and improve the working conditions of doctors and nurses.
The need to address the poor working conditions has become even more urgent with the outbreak of Covid-19, which has made the use of PPE by health workers an absolute necessity because the disease is highly contagious.
While it is understandable that Zimbabwe is facing serious economic problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has left Treasury with little leg room to improve working conditions for government workers, the authorities should at least demonstrate that they put citizens’ lives first by engaging the striking health workers.
Threatening to dismiss the striking nurses as was the case in 2018 will not work as those hired to replace them will face similar problems. Moyo, in particular, has to shape up or ship out.