Senior Zimbabwe Doctors Down Tools As Mnangagwa Abandons Leave to Resolve Crippling Strike

Registrars working in state hospitals have downed tools in solidarity with junior and middle level doctors who went on strike a month ago demanding to be paid in United States dollars, a government review of a government-sponsored vehicle loan scheme and other issues.

Dr. Sacrifice Chirisa, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association and Dr. Mthabisi Bhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association
Dr. Sacrifice Chirisa, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association and Dr. Mthabisi Bhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association

This comes at a time when Vice President Constantino Chiwenga says the government won’t pay the striking medical practitioners in dollars while President Emmerson Mnangagwa has abandoned his leave and returned to work in an effort to resolve the doctors’ industrial action.

In a statement, the registrars said, “Following the continued action by the junior doctors and their subsequent suspension, we the senior registrars have become overwhelmed by the workload and are no longer confident (that) we can discharge our duties properly without compromising both out and the patients’ safety. Out work involves working as a team and so if the other crucial part is missing then we are all rendered useless.

“We share the same grievances as out juniors that of the need for a cost of living adjustment, need for uninterrupted availability of essential drugs and sundries and the need to address the vehicle status of all doctors. We have resolved therefore as a group to protect our patients and ourselves to withdraw our services until an agreement is reached.”

There was no comment from Dr. Sacrifice Chirisa, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association, and government.

The registrars and consultants, who are affiliated to the Zimbabwe Medical Association, gave the government 48 hours last Friday to address the striking doctors’ concerns or face a crippling industrial action.

At the same time, in a statement, Retired General Chiwenga said the government would not pay doctors’ salaries in United States dollars.

“”The government does not print United States dollars. The hard earned foreign currency will be committed to, among other areas, importing essential medicines for use in hospitals and clinics, as well as to facilitate the recovery of the economy, in line with the Transitional Stabilization Programme.”

He also warned striking doctors to stop public demonstrations at state hospitals.

“… Government will not allow any demonstrations, at medical facilities whose purpose is to treat patients and ensure their full recovery. For the avoidance of doubt, government will not remunerate any work of its workforce in United States dollars, a position it made very clear to the striking doctors.”

He further noted, without elaborating, that the government is exploring ways of stabilizing the health sector.

Doctors have over the years been making several demands, including salary increases and improved working conditions.

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