Mpilo doctors down tools over working conditions

DOCTORS at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo have downed tools in protest over government’s failure to address their concerns over poor working conditions.

By Sindiso Dube

The industrial action coincided with the lapse of a 21-day ultimatum given by the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association.

In a letter dated February 27 and addressed to Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa, Mpilo doctors said they would stop discharging their duty from today until their grievances were addressed.

“Reference is made to the petition sent to your office, and the follow up notice dated February 2, 2018. We note with disappointment the lack of urgency in addressing our issues,” the letter read.

“Our locums remain unpaid since October 2017 and we remain understaffed. There are no essential drugs and fluids, and the patients are dying unnecessarily. There has been written response from you to address this and no tangible efforts.”

The doctors added that their working hours remained ill-defined.

“Our allowances have not been upgraded to the minimal set amount (in the letter dated February 5) as per regional standards. Regrading has not been implemented, yet we continue to work,” the letter read.

“This serves as notice that with effect from March 1, 2018 we will be unable to discharge our normal duties until such a time the ministry decides to prioritise our people’s health. Any timetables made at the institution during this time without prior consultations and approval of the HAD and its members will not be adhered to.”

The doctors also accused the government of failing to procure adequate hospital equipment and essential drugs to allow them to provide quality service to patients at district and central hospitals.

Doctors also called for the uplifting of blanket freeze on recruitment of doctors and other health workers with immediate effect.

This includes creation of more than sufficient posts to absorb the current interns at central and district hospitals and government officers, to curb service understaffing nationwide.

Mpilo Hospital Doctors’ Association president Mxolisi Ngwenya said instead of the ministry listening to their plight, it had worsened their working conditions.

“We have been trying to engage the ministry and Health Services Board, but to no avail. Instead of hearing us out, they went on to cut retention allowance by a whopping 87%,” he said.

“Our patients continue to suffer and our welfare as heath service personnel is worse than poor. Long queues prevail due to understaffing and we work long tedious hours sacrificing to see every patient despite our empty pockets. In the process, quality of care is depleted.”

Ngwenya said they hoped for quick action so they would return to work.

“It pains us to resort to industrial action, but this is the only language our employer understands. We hope for a swift and decisive action to allow us to resume duties. The ministry should show commitment to revamping the health sector. A healthy nation is a productive nation.”

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