PATIENTS were left stranded at major Government hospitals yesterday after service delivery was paralysed by a nationwide strike by junior doctors who are demanding that their monthly salary be raised from $282 to $1,200. More than 300 doctors mainly from Government central hospitals and some district hospitals joined in the strike that started yesterday over salaries and poor working conditions.
In Bulawayo hundreds of patients were left stranded at Mpilo Central Hospital, the biggest referral centre in Matabeleland, where notices informed patients that doctors would only attend to “emergencies.”
“Please note that doctors are on strike. Only dire emergencies will be attended to. All outpatient clinics are hereby suspended till further notice,” read a notice posted on a board at the hospital.
The situation was the same at the United Bulawayo Hospitals.
Patients at Mpilo, some of whom were in agony, said they had arrived at the hospital early in the morning only to be told that doctors were on strike and would only attend to critical cases.
Hlangabeza Tshuma, a patient who had a swollen hand said he was in unbearable pain and felt hopeless after reading the notice boards.
“How does someone determine a dire situation? I’m the one in pain and so l know better. It’s just unfair for doctors to say that,” he said.
A woman who identified herself only as Mathonsi said in the morning some relatives left the hospital with distressed patients after realising that they could end up dying in queues.
“I came with my two-year-old daughter in the morning, she can’t walk or stand on her feet and I don’t know what to do. I can’t take her back home as we failed to sleep yesterday,” she said.
Elizabeth Ndlovu said she feared for her cousin who was continuously bleeding.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) media and publicity officer Francis Rwodzi said over 300 doctors did not report for work yesterday.
He said the least paid doctor earns $282 per month and they are demanding $1,200 exclusive of incentives.
Rwodzi said the association would only negotiate if the government brings something tangible to the table.
“We won’t attend to meaningless negotiations with the government. As of now there’s been no communication from the government. What we want aren’t meetings but tangible solutions,” he said.
Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa said the government is taking doctors’ grievances seriously.
“The government takes doctors’ grievances seriously and l can’t tell when the matter will be resolved as negotiations are underway”.
He said the issue needed to be resolved quickly as the ministry does not want to see patients suffering.
“I believe we’ve to resolve their grievances quickly as we obviously don’t want patients to suffer at any cost,” said Dr Parirenyatwa
A STRIKE by junior doctors yesterday got off to a slow start in Bulawayo, with most of the health workers reporting for work although they appeared to be on a go slow.
Visits to Bulawayo’s top referral hospitals, Mpilo Central and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) revealed that despite offering services, the junior doctors did not seem to be doing so expeditiously.
Other doctors were working, while some seemed to be milling around, indifferent to the situation on the ground.
People visiting patients at Mpilo Hospital told Southern Eye that services were markedly slower, with doctors taking longer to attend to patients.
“I came here at around 6am during the visiting hour and I was told to wait for the doctors,” a relative, who requested anonymity, said.
“It took about three hours to be told my relative’s condition.”
It took another seriously ill patient 30 minutes to be admitted at the hospital, despite having been brought by an ambulance.
Slow-moving queues were the order of the day at UBH as doctors seemed to be taking their time to administer treatment.
Another patient had to wait 30 minutes to be admitted by the medical personnel, despite the seriousness of his condition.
The patient, who looked like he had been assaulted and could barely sit, had to endure a painful waiting period before being admitted.
Officials at both hospitals could not be drawn to comment on the state of health delivery following the doctors’ strike.
The junior doctors are demanding that their salaries be reviewed from the current $282 to a minimum of $1 200 per month, excluding allowances.
They are also demanding free accommodation in government-owned flats.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association secretary-general Farai Makoni confirmed that their members had embarked on an industrial action in accordance with the new Constitution.
“Section 65 Subsection 3 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe states that except for members of the security services, every employee has the right to participate in collective job action, including the right to strike, sit in, withdraw their labour and to take other similar action,” he said.
“Indeed we are on an industrial action until our issues are addressed.”
Makoni said they had not received any verifiable evidence from the authorities on progress towards their demands.
Source: Southern Eye/Chronicle