By Moses Matenga
SENIOR doctors and nurses have downed tools with immediate effect over government’s failure to provide them with protective clothing and medical infrastructure to tackle the coronavirus that has claimed many health workers internationally.
Apart from the protective clothes, nurses also demanded a coronavirus allowance from the distressed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, which has struggled to meet the basic demands for the medial staff since coming into power in November 2017 on the back of a military coup.
“Pursuant to the meeting we had on Monday March 23, 2020 in which we communicated to you our genuine grievances and expressed our fears concerning this deadly pandemic, which has not spared the healthcare workers as well, we expected our urgent response in writing from your office which has not come until now,” the Zimbabwe Medical Association said in a statement yesterday.
“We have expressed to you the issue of PPE (personal protective equipment) which is still not yet available. The way in which the hospital is to be functional still remains vague.
“While you continue to run around putting things in place, we would like to make it clear in no uncertain terms that members will not be able to continue carrying out their duties with immediate effect.”
Last year, the doctors went on strike for four months demanding better working conditions and the equipping of hospitals, apart from United States dollar-indexed salaries, but there was no positive action from Mnangagwa’s government.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Association said its members had downed tools because there was no protective clothing and water in hospitals, apart from a demand for coronavirus allowance.
“Following our letter that was presented to our employer 48 hours ago, informing them to urgently attend to our demands as frontline workers, it seems our concerns are not getting the urgency it deserves,” the nurses said in a statement.
“So, in that regard, all nurses are withdrawing their services with immediate effect until there is genuine action taken by the employer. We will only get back to work once our concerns have been swiftly acted upon. No PPE, no work; no corona allowance, no work; no water, no work.”
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights yesterday said the position by the medical staff was justified and genuine by imploring authorities to act.
“Definitely, it is a necessary requirement because we have seen health workers in other countries being affected in their numbers so we cannot expose people by making them go on the frontline without protection so their request is genuine and is an issue that must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” the association’s secretary Norman Matara said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director Roselyn Hanzi wrote to Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo demanding information and action on several issues, including ensuring availability of proper clothing for medical staff.
“We also need to know how many ‘Hazmat suits’ and N95 masks have been distributed in each district, provincial and central hospital to make sure our first line of defence, the health workers, are safe and have some adequate protection against COVID-19,” Hanzi wrote in a letter.
“Please provide us with further information on whether our health personnel have all now been adequately trained on managing patients with this COVID-19.”