Fears over Health Service Act amendments

Itai Rusike

THERE are fears that the recently signed Health Service Amendment Act could trample on the rights of health workers.

Speaking to NewsDay, Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike  said the Act is neither democratic nor consultative.  

He said public health sector workers are now disadvantaged in several ways because they have no right to strike and they cannot engage in collective bargaining.

“It is unfortunate that health workers are caught in the middle of a system that is slow to respond to their needs and ethical pressures not to take collective job action,” Rusike said.

“The unpopular Health Services Act will most likely exacerbate the exodus of health workers from the country thereby putting extra pressure on those who will remain on their jobs.”

He urged government to address the conditions of service for health workers to plug the brain drain.

While there are no exact statistics on the number of health professionals who left the country in 2021, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association put the figure at just over 2000.

Last year, government announced plans to ban doctors and nurses from embarking on job action lasting more than three days under new proposed amendments to the Health Services Act.

The Health Services Act was enacted in February 2005 to provide for the establishment of the Health Services Board (HSB) and the transfer of persons engaged in public health service delivery from the Public Service Commission to the HSB.

Under the Act,, worker representatives who face charges of inciting  nurses and doctors to unlawfully down tools could be jailed for three years in what authorities argue is necessary to ostensibly “instil discipline” in the health sector.

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