POLICE yesterday arrested health and general workers at Victoria Chitepo Hospital in Mutare as nurses and some doctors deserted major hospitals across the country following a call by their unions to down tools and reject a 50% government salary increment.
The situation remained dire in public hospitals yesterday as protests by nurses that started on Wednesday at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals cascaded to other public health centres across the country.
A few nurses turned up for duty at Parirenyatwa and Sally Mugabe Hospitals in the capital and nurses in other cities such as Mutare and Gweru joined the protests yesterday to press government to review its pay offer of 50% salary hike and a US$75 non-taxable COVID-19 allowance.
Other health workers, who included pharmacy technicians, radiographers, midwives, medical specialists in training as well as hospital food services supervisors, also heeded the call for a strike, failing to turn up for work in large numbers at major hospitals across the country.
Patients at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH) were the hardest hit as they desperately sought medical help at the institutions where the percentages of health workers who heeded the strike call were the highest.
In Mutare, scores of nurses and general staff were nabbed at Manicaland’s referral hospital, Victoria Chitepo Hospital (formally Mutare Provincial Hospital) yesterday morning for protesting against salaries and bad working conditions.
Most doctors, however, reported for work.
The nurses and general staff were detained at Mutare Central Police Station before hospital management reportedly negotiated for their release.
A Victoria Chitepo Hospital administrator confirmed the arrests on condition of anonymity.
“Yes, our nurses and some general staff were arrested for taking part in the strike. They were detained at Mutare Central Police Station. They were released without charge after the hospital’s management negotiated for their release,” he said.
A nurse at the hospital weighed in: “I don’t know why we were arrested. We were just doing what other nurses in other parts of the country were doing.”
Another nurse told NewsDay Weekender that some of the nurses arrested were on night duty and were on their way home.
“We have some nurses who were arrested while going home since they were on night duty. This is not fair,” she said.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa said he was not aware of the arrests.
Manicaland provincial medical director Simon Nyadundu switched off his mobile phone when contacted for comment.
On Thursday, the health workers officially informed their employer, the Health Services Board (HSB) that they had resolved to, with immediately effect, embark on a strike over meagre salaries and worsening working conditions.
Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo, who is also team leader of 14 associations and unions of health workers known as the Health Apex Council, yesterday said the strike was indefinite.
“As long as government has not come back to its workers to address their plight, the strike will not end. It will be indefinite. So far, we are yet to hear from them,” he said.
“There were virtually no nurses and doctors at major hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo. The situation was the same at provincial hospitals,” he said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike blamed government for the strike.
“The ongoing strike action by the health workers is legitimate, but insufficient to address the overall deterioration of Zimbabwe’s public health delivery system as the public health concerns remain at the periphery,” he said.
“The public wants to see an improvement in the working conditions for the health workers so that they can resume their duties and save lives as the public health system has been severely compromised.”
He reiterated that government must address concerns of the health workers.
“We are greatly concerned by the recurrent strikes by health workers following failure by the government to address their long-standing concerns. Presently, the country’s major referral hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo have literally closed their outpatients departments and cancelled emergencies, a situation that could result in prolonged human suffering and avoidable deaths.”
“There is need to tackle the health workers grievances with the seriousness they deserve. The government should also look at what the other countries in the region are paying their health workers.”
Source – newsday