Striking nurses’ issue taken to government: HSB

THE Health Service Board (HSB) yesterday said it had submitted the demands of the striking health workers to government and was still awaiting a response.

By Harriet Chikandiwa

HSB chairman Paulinus Sikosana made the remarks when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care led by acting chair Doubt Ndiweni.

Sikosana told the committee that the Zimbabwe Health Apex Council submitted a notice to HSB to withdraw services with immediate effect (June 18, 2020).

The Health Apex Council indicated that their salaries and health sector specific allowances had been eroded by inflation. They demanded that their salaries should revert to the October 1, figures in US$.

“Board sets conditions of service for health workers and does this in consultation with Treasury,” Sikosana said.

“The negotiations for these are done through the Health Service Bipartite Negotiation Panel (HSBNP).

“In this framework, the board normally makes recommendations to Treasury and the Treasury response usually informs the HSBNP negotiations.”

Two weeks ago, health workers declared a strike demanding US dollar salaries, rejecting a government offer of a 50% salary hike and non-taxable US$75 monthly COVID-19.

Sikosana revealed that government was still to pay the promised US$75 allowances and 50% salary increment and the HSB, which employs health workers, was pushing government to fulfil its promise.

“On June 18, 2020, government announced a 50% salary review and US$75 COVID-19 allowance for all government workers, inclusive of health workers,” Sikosana said.

“Salary schedules for payment of the adjusted salary and the US$75 risk allowance were completed and submitted to Treasury last week to facilitate immediate payment to health workers.”

Sikosana told Parliament that the HSB budget had always been and continued to be allocated as part of the Health ministry programmes vote and Treasury managed it through the parent ministry.

He denied allegations of looting of COVID-19 funds.

“The HSB has its own accounts that are audited by the Auditor-General and is not on the government integrated public finance management system. Should the board require funding which may be outside the ordinarily approved allocation, a request is made to the Ministry of Health for the support required.”

Sikosana added that the board had not been allocated a budget to deal with the pandemic, yet other government ministries were allocated COVID-19 management funds by Treasury.

“Treasury has not allocated any budget for COVID-19 activities to the board. As a result, faced with obligations under the COVID-19 response, the board has to make a formal funding request to the Health and Child Care ministry,” he said.

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