PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s weekend call on striking health workers to return to their workstations as their grievances are “being looked into” doesn’t sound genuine given government’s lackadaisical approach to the matter since nurses downed tools a month ago.
Given the gravity of the health crisis in the country, coupled with the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic, a government genuinely concerned with the wellbeing of its citizens wouldn’t have allowed the health workers’ grievances to go unresolved this far.
Doctors and nurses don’t enjoy seeing their patients wasting away unattended given their hippocratic oath to save lives, but they cannot perform those duties on empty tummies and under a government that labels them angels of darkness.
Mnangagwa should urgently get off his high horse and genuinely engage doctors and nurses’ leaders to address their concerns. We believe the resources are there, but what’s missing is political will.
Following Mnangagwa’s call to end the strike in the ‘nation’s interest’, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general Norman Matara reminded government to first honour its end of the bargain — an issue that has remained a sore thumb in the two entities’ relations since independence.
“The government should simply meet its end of the bargain, pay health workers a living wage, provide them with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment. If they do this simple task, health workers will happily return to work and do their job of saving lives. The government wants health workers to act ‘in the nation’s interest and exhibit a sense of responsibility’, yet the same government is not meeting its end of responsibilities.”
“Health workers cannot work on empty stomachs and without protective clothing simply because they want to save lives.”
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo echoed similar sentiments, calling on the country’s ‘listening leader’ to also listen to their grievances and address them.
We believe that as long as government continues to politicise the standoff, describing the strike by frontline health workers as unlawful while pampering members of the Health Service Board with state-of-the-art vehicles, the nation is fast heading towards a cliff especially amid reports that nurses were now using ordinary plastics as PPEs and that they were now the main carriers of the virus.
For once, our political leaders need to swallow their pride, stop paying little regard to the plight of the frontline workers and genuinely engage them with the assistance of a substantive Health minister, hospital CEOs and a permanent secretary to better manage issues affecting sector.
Anything short of that could just signal the beginning of Zimbabwe’s worst-ever health system crisis since independence in 1980.