Junior doctors petition government, HSB over contract employment

Junior doctors have petitioned the Health ministry and the Health Services Board (HSB) over the decision to employ them as contract workers.

By Phyllis Mbanje

Doctor

They are warning that such a move would result in low morale and poor service delivery.

Over 60 doctors appended their signature to the petition, which was directed to Health minister David Parirenyatwa and copied to HSB.

However, HSB public relations executive, Nyasha Maravanyika said he was not aware of the document nor its origin.

“We have not received the petition and in any case, why would the doctors go to the Press and not take up the issue with us in a discussion?” he queried.

Maravanyika also said if indeed there were isssues that needed redress, the doctors were aware of the channels to follow.

“Our (HSB and ministry) doors are open to them anytime and they can seek dialogue. I am surprised at this culture they are displaying,” he said.

The doctors, in their letter, said the contracts issue was unprecedented and that it was overriding other government arms like the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council of Zimbabwe, which had already registered them as full-time workers.

They were also irked by the fact the contract system would deny them the opportunity to exercise their labour rights, as it banned them from engaging in collective job actions.

The doctors will also not be able to enter into any form of agreement such as hire purchase.

“We will not be able to access loans from institutions such as banks,” they said.

They claimed that the contract was drafted in Parliament and there were no consultations with other parties.

“This will result in disgruntlement and passive disobedience by doctors as they will be forced to consent to a document that they disagree with,” the petition read.

Other sticky points were that the contract did not stipulate how much a doctor earns during the contract period. The issue of contracts has been an emotive one since being introduced last year.

Initially, the proposed contract provided government with the right to withhold payment of interns should they fail to report for duty for over a month, or reduce payments depending on the number of days they were absent from work.

The contract also stated that interns may be paid an on-call allowance that may also be subject to review.

It denied female doctors maternity leave entitlements when they fall pregnant.

There was an outcry from the doctors over some of the conditions and a legal team consisting of the Health ministry and HSB was roped in to look at some of the concerns.

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