Senior doctors have written to the Acting Minister of Health and Child Care informing him that they will be withdrawing their services starting the 29th of July citing incapacitation and the fear that they risk catching the coronavirus if they keep working seeing as it is that they do not have adequate PPE. Nurses are already on strike over similar issues. Incapacitation has become a favourite term among employees whenever they down tools.
The same letter also sets out the conditions under which senior doctors will be willing to return to work. These include the provision of personal protective equipment , adequate drugs and payment of salaries in US dollars among other conditions that the government is going to find hard to meet setting the scene for a protracted battle with the government. This notice comes as there has been a surge in coronavirus cases which have since passed the 1 000 mark and 20 deaths and counting.
14 July 2020
To: The Honourable Acting Minister of Health and Child Care
Ref: Notice of intent to withdraw from offering services
As specialist doctors offering services in government hospitals we are finding it difficult to continue offering services in our work stations because of a number of challenges as outlined below, which we have been in discussion with your office and the Health Services Board (HSB) and for which no solution has been proffered.
1. The hospitals are having serious challenges in procuring and providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and as such we are unfairly exposed to Covid19. Efforts to get this rectified has been associated with erratic supplies coming in at times.
2. Covid19 testing of hospital inpatients remains erratic and the results often take days to come out. Consequently, we are inundated with patients whom we admit, and who endure an inordinately long wait for Covid results, and at times cannot access some services until the result is out. This can lead to poorer outcomes for patients, and even unnecessary deaths. At the same time HCWs are put at risk of infection due to issues of inadequate PPE as outlined above. We want to be able to run our theatres and other specialist services seamlessly and availing testing and tirneous results is paramount.
3. Since the promise for more equipment made in March last year, no progress has been made except for the equipment received towards the end of the year. Little attention has been paid to the issue of making sure drugs, sundries and equipment are made available in adequate stocks. We note with concern allegations of massive fraud in the procurement of PPE, drugs, and sundries, amounts which would have made a life-changing difference to institutions. It still remains the responsibility of government to avail to us the necessary tools of the trade for us to function properly and offer quality healthcare service to the population of Zimbabwe in an ethical and professional manner.
4. Our salaries as paid in the Zimbabwe dollar cannot sustain an anymore. The Zimbabwe dollar is so volatile and subject to inflationary pressures that make it unpredictable. It is therefore continually losing value at a much higher rate than adjustments to our salaries are made. Prices for groceries and other goods are now charged in US dollars or pegged to the realistic parallel market rates. Faced with this scenario as doctors we feel the only reasonable solution is to be paid in United States Dollars (USD). The government has the template of our previous salaries as of 1 October 2018 when we were paid in US dollars. As such, we urge the ministry to reconvene the Bipartite negotiating forum so that these issues can be discussed.
5. Our members who are officially employed by the University of Zimbabwe continue to offer services in hospitals, but they are not being paid their clinical allowances. We have presented this issue to your office, but it remains an unresolved issue with no payment being done.
Please accept this letter today being Wednesday the 14th of July 2020 as we give a 2 week notice in terms of section 104 of the Labour Act Chapter 28:01 as amended, to the relevant arms of the government of Zimbabwe of our intention to withdraw services because of our grievances as outlined above with the following demands:
1. Make Covidl9 testing readily available in all hospitals so we can be able to offer seamless services
2. Provide adequate PPE in hospitals.
3. Pay us in the USD which is a stable currency which carries predictable buying power. We do not want to be paid in the Zimbabwe dollar again.
4. Our payment in USD should be benchmarked to our October 2018 salaries that were in USD.
5. Pay the clinical allowance that is due to University of Zimbabwe clinicians who are offering services in tertiary hospitals
6. Provide drugs, sundries, and equipment in our hospitals.
7. As doctors we need our other health delivery colleagues present to be able to function well. They have not been able to report for duties in line with grievances that they have presented to yourselves.
The employer should solve their incapacitation so that we can be able to resume normal services ethically and professionally. We need nurses, radiographers, pharmacists, and all others to deliver a reasonable service.
For the avoidance of any doubt, if these issues are not resolved, on the 29th of July 2020 the specialist doctors will no longer be able to continue to stretch themselves beyond measure to offer the little service currently being offered at government hospitals, and shall, therefore, cease to do any work.
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