The strike by doctors and other medical staff at Premier Service Medical Investments (PSMI) continued yesterday amid calls by civil servants that the government should honour its obligation to pay the $44 million it owes Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) to ensure its survival.
BY AUDREY MUTASA/RICHARD CHIDZA
PSMI, a subsidiary of health insurer PSMAS, was forced to scale down on operations at most of its hospitals countrywide after doctors and other essential service staff downed tools over unpaid salaries on Monday. The quasi-government insurer owes staffers five months’ salary arrears.
PSMAS chairman Jeremiah Bvirindi yesterday said his board was in consultation with stakeholders to find a quick solution to the crisis.
“Our problem is that 75% of PSMI business is civil service and it also translates to 75% of our revenue. Now if that is withheld it becomes almost impossible to do anything. But we are working hard, we are engaging our partners and have approached the government to get them to at least pay something so we can in turn pay our medical staff,” Bvirindi said.
“Our services have been turned into a free service and that is not sustainable. We are looking at all options and at least by Friday we should have some kind of solution, we do not want to prejudice our members.”
Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (Zimta) chief executive officer Sifiso Ndlovu did not mince his words.
“Government also has an obligation to make sure it does not interfere with the operations at PSMAS. We appeal to the authorities to please pay. There are people with terminal and chronic illnesses that are life-threatening. These need to be considered.
“While the government obviously has a direct interest in PSMAS operations, the Labour minister (Prisca Mupfumira) had no locus standi to interfere with the operations of the board when it seconded some of its staffers to do the same. It compromises the independence of not only the institution, but also its jurisprudence. The minister must stay away because her actions create a sense of complicity in the chaos,” Ndlovu said.
He said the Zimta membership had been affected severely by the wild-cat strike.
An Apex Council member, David Dzatsunga, said civil servants had been caught in between and were “now in a quandary because after paying subscriptions they find themselves with no service provider or money to pay elsewhere”.
“It has caused a lot of pain and suffering as well as obvious deaths although this is not immediately quantifiable. At the moment it becomes almost impossible to apportion blame to anyone, but because the bulk of the PSMAS revenue comes from the State. We are aware the government is struggling with revenue, but we have a situation of life and death and this needs to be a priority,” Dzatsunga said. PSMI group managing director Farai Muchena, meanwhile, in an internal email tried to rally his troops to be positive and persevere.