Junior doctors ‘arm-twisted’ to shelve strike

JUNIOR doctors at public hospitals yesterday ended their 40-day long strike after some consultant doctors allegedly threatened to cause them to fail their internship.

By Everson Mushava/Vanessa Gonye

The Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors’ Association, in a statement, confirmed the decision to “begrudgingly” end the job action before striking a salary deal with government.

“ZHDA is delighted to inform the membership, members of the Press and the public that the industrial action by doctors has come to an end,” ZHDA secretary-general Mthabisi Bhebhe said.
“Sadly, with no salary review, and frozen December salaries, in this rough and ravaging economic environment, it remains a dilemma how our members will report to work daily.

“Indeed, poor remuneration and the current fuel shortages remain a threat that may spontaneously hinder our members from reporting to work and discharging quality health services to patients. That being said, our members have begrudgingly resumed work with effect from today, as dialogue continues.”
Doctors have been on strike since December 1 and efforts by government to get them to return to work hit a brick wall several times.
Sources said the doctors finally made the decision to return to work after they were threatened by consultant doctors that they risked going it alone. The striking doctors were reportedly ordered to call off their strike on Wednesday as government attended to their grievances.

“If they (government) give you a pay rise today, the whole country will demand that and the government will not be able to cope,” a senior doctor involved in the negotiations said.  “The cost of living (adjustment) is coming in March. It is coming, they have promised. Consider what is there on the table and take. If you continue, if the consultant says fire them, you will come back to zero.

“Remember, you are not yet registered with the Medical Council. If you get fired, no matter what you want to do, you will never go anywhere. You would have wasted six years of training. I am pleading with you, suffer for a while.”

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the dispute between the hospital doctors and government was the culmination of a build-up over the years of an inadequate balance between spending on salaries and on the resources and supplies needed for the effective professional practice of personnel.  “For the past five years or so, the doctors have been promised non-cash incentives whenever they strike, but when they resume work, those promises were not fulfilled. Instead, they got threats,” he said.

“CWGH feels that the issue of non-cash incentives such as duty-free vehicles, housing stands and opportunity for career growth has to be prioritised.”