BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Doctors and their employer have been urged to engage in an honest dialogue aimed at ending the current impasse which has halted operations in public hospitals and created chaos in the private sector which is being swamped by patients.
The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), which is mediating between the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) and the Health Services Board (HSB), said there was need to resolve the matter urgently.
“We are saying to the government let us open the dialogue doors by setting aside the disciplinary hearings and give dialogue a chance,” CWGH executive director Itai Rusike told NewsDay yesterday.
Doctors last week snubbed disciplinary hearings by government over their refusal to go back to work after being ordered by the court to do so.
The refusal, accompanied by Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi’s threat to fire and blacklist all the striking doctors, has complicated the negotiation process.
CWGH initially met with the ZDHA executive committee last week as well as the HSB.
A meeting was then convened on Wednesday for a joint discussion and meetings are continuing even though progress is said to be slow.
This is due to mistrust and suspicion between the two parties, who have had a standoff for more than two months, with government instituting disciplinary hearings.
“Both parties should bear in mind that more than 90% of the Zimbabwe population depends on the underfunded and understaffed public health system,” Rusike said.
He added that there was need to prioritise patients and the vulnerable populations in their dialogue to resolve the crisis.
“We also would like to see the leadership from the HSB to ensure speedy resolution of this crisis. The general public would like to be furnished with concrete steps, including timelines the government is committing to address the current dispute,” Rusike said.
Rusike also said sadly, the issue of brain drain as a result of push factors was very worrying.
“Experienced doctors are leaving and this compromises the quality of health care,” he said.
The HSB has maintained that they are sticking to the laid-down procedure and would go ahead with the hearings with or without the doctors.
The doctors, who have not been reporting for work for over 60 days, on the other hand, have said that they would not attend the hearings.
“We do not care about the hearings, all we are concerned about are the issues of incapacitation, which have not been addressed,” ZHDA acting secretary-general Tawanda Zvakada said yesterday.