Negotiations between government and striking doctors collapsed yesterday after the medical practitioners rejected a deal struck by negotiators, prolonging the month-long strike.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Doctors in public hospitals have been striking for better pay and working conditions and negotiating teams reached an agreement to end the industrial action, but the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association (ZHDA) membership rejected the deal and accused government of negotiating in bad faith.
In a statement, ZHDA said government said it could not pay the doctors in United States dollars because 99% of its revenue was electronic.
On the vehicle loan scheme demanded by the doctors, government said the existing facility had only $6 million left, but the scheme was to be complemented with a duty-free scheme.
“We had asked for a duty-free facility to cater for all our members. The Ministry of Health wants to provide it only to those who will benefit from the vehicle loan scheme alone. We are not happy at all with the move,” ZHDA said in a statement.
“The employer initially had said the cost of living adjustments would be made in February. That it has been postponed to April (to include the rest of the civil service) is something surprising and without honesty.
“We refused to sign such a bad offer with no clarity on issues that matter.”
Among those present during the negotiations were Apex Council members, Finance ministry permanent secretary, George Guvamatanga and his Health counterpart, Gerald Gwinji, among others.
ZHDA secretary-general, Mthabisi Anele Bhebhe said doctors rejected the government offer and will continue with the strike action.
Doctors have been protesting over pay, allowances and drug shortages at public health institutions, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government struggles with an economy experiencing rising inflation and prices, a shortages of cash, fuel and groceries.
But sources close to the negotiations said during the talks, the doctors had agreed to return to work while a framework to address their demands was being worked out.
The talks came a day after the expiry of the Sunday deadline issued by senior doctors and consultants — who have been holding fort during the strike — who on Friday issued a 48-hour ultimatum that government resolves the concerns raised by their striking colleagues or they would join the industrial action.
The striking junior doctors were last week suspended by Acting President Constantino Chiwenga for allegedly defying a court ruling to return to work.
Government had agreed to drop disciplinary cases against the doctors under the rejected deal.
To mitigate the crisis at public health institutions, government had attempted to hire students who recently graduated from university to replace the suspended doctors, but was rebuffed by the students.
Documents shown to NewsDay suggested a list of students from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), University of Zimbabwe (UZ), and other medical colleges from across the world had already been drawn up by government.
Meanwhile, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) yesterday called on government to apply a holistic approach in dealing with the strike by medical doctors.
“As a coalition, we are worried that the impasse, if not dealt with, will likely trigger similar job actions by other health professionals such as nurses who work closely with doctors,” CiZC said.
“We believe that a holistic approach will address major concerns in the health sector which is currently faced with a major industrial action by doctors and also struggling to cope with the health demands of the citizens due to shortages in essential drugs and equipment.”