The Health Services Board (HSB) has said the recently announced review of salaries for civil servants was just an interim arrangement while they await Treasury’s response on a request for a potential offer based on available fiscal capacity.
By Phyllis Mbanje
Last Wednesday, government offered all its workers a 50% salary hike and a non-taxable US$75 monthly COVID-19 allowance after nurses at Parirenyatwa Hospital protested against meagre salaries in the morning.
The offer was, however, rejected by all civil servants, who instead, called for a negotiated cost of living adjustment (Cola). Nurses declared a strike the following day, with doctors joining in this week.
But HSB chairperson Paulinus Sikosana said they had held two informal meetings with some members of the Health Apex Council to clarify that the review was only an interim arrangement to cushion the workers for three months while a comprehensive solution was being worked out.
“HSB has written to Treasury so that we can enter into meaningful negotiations with the health workers,” he said.
The strike by healthcare workers has already plunged the country into a health crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health watchdog, Citizens Health Watch (CHW) expressed concern at the strike which comes at a time government in embroiled in COVID-19 tender scam.
“Zimbabwe’s healthcare workers have for decades worked under extraordinary conditions in a healthcare sector that has been plundered by years of corruption, that is underfunded, has obsolete equipment and regular drug stock out,” CHW’s trustee Fungisayi Dube said.
The strike spells disaster in a country already reeling from economic and social decline.
“These recurrent, decades long strikes, the corruption, have shone the spotlight on the devastating effects of lack of transparency and accountability that is apparent in the healthcare sector. It brings into sharp focus government’s inadequacies and what we feel is inability to effectively invest in the health of its citizens,” Dube said.
CHW is particularly concerned at what it believes is government failure to publicly speak or formally address the allegations of multi-million-dollar fraud in the procurement of COVID-19 supplies.
The health lobby group has been monitoring the effects of the strike by health workers on the country’s health delivery system.
“Moreover, COVID-19 tests even for admitted patients still take as long as seven days, clearly shooting ourselves and our healthcare providers in the foot,” CHW said.