Deal reached in nurses, doctors strike

HARARE – Public health officials — including doctors and nurses — have called off their crippling strike after reaching an agreement with government on Friday, ending the stand-off which came at huge cost as hundreds of patients died during the chaos which ravaged the State hospitals in the last three weeks.

In the agreement it said it was opening up 6 000 posts for nurses and increasing on-call allowances for doctors, among a raft of the demands made by the public health officials.

According to the agreement signed by Parirenyatwa Hospital chief executive, Thomas Zigora, as government team leader, a P Chivese representing the workers and a B Chimbunde who chairs the Health Service Bipartite Negotiating Panel (HSBNP), government also promised that it would not take disciplinary action against the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association executive as it had threatened.

“While noting that in calling for a strike, procedures were not followed, the meeting agreed that the leadership of workers will not face disciplinary action,” reads part of the agreement.

“Pursuant to a meeting of the HSBNP on March 3 2017 convened in terms of section 5 of the health service regulations 2006 (SI 111 of 2006), the panel made the following resolutions:

“The HSBNP agreed that the base figure for on-call allowance be reviewed from the $288 per month to $360 per month with effect from April 1, 2017. The other rates will be reviewed proportionally. The meeting noted that when fiscal space becomes available the allowance will be reviewed.”

Doctors were calling for an upward review of on call allowances to $720 per month for the least paid doctors.

On creation of vacancies for doctors who would have finished internship, government made available 250 posts to be filled on a staggered basis, with effective from March 1, 2017 with quarterly meetings to be held to look at conditions of service issues.

Regarding the employment of nurses “the panel noted that 2000 posts have been created for nurses to be filled on a staggered basis, with effect from April 1 2017 and government would create posts for other health workers.”

Currently, the country has 4 000 unemployed nurses, who have finished training and against a country shortfall of 8 000 nurses, according to the Health ministry.

Doctors have also been demanding a duty-free vehicle import scheme as they complained that it was difficult for them to attend to emergencies and on call duty as they could not afford to buy cars. Instead government offered them an employer-assisted car loan scheme.

“The bipartite should convene at the earliest opportunity to design an implementation framework for consideration and adoption by government before May 30, 2017,” the agreement read.

“The meeting agreed that the base figure for night duty allowance has been reviewed upwards from the current $50 per set to $65 on sliding scale to $91 per set effective April 1 2017. Government to look at ways of compensating nurses in management who are not getting night duty allowance but carrying additional responsibilities.

The doctors went on strike three weeks ago to press the government to honour its promises of improving their working conditions.

Public hospitals are struggling under the weight of a myriad other problems, including the shortage of drugs and continued under-funding by the government.

Despite the humongous problems bedevilling the public health sector, President Robert Mugabe’s misfiring government has once again allocated a measly budget to hospitals and clinics this year.

In his budget presentation in December, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa reduced the vote for health from $331 million to a disappointing $282 million — a figure that falls way short of meeting the big demands of the public health sector. – Daily News

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