By Silisiwe Mabika
HEALTH practitioners have rejected the Health Services Amendment Bill which they say seeks to punish them for exercising their labour rights and have threatened mass resignations if it is passed into law.
At a public hearing on the Bill conducted in Bulawayo by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care last Friday, the medical staff rejected the proposed law which they said was despotic.
The committee is chaired by Ruth Labode.
Participants at the public hearing comprised mainly health workers, who said the proposed law would hasten their departure for greener pastures.
A gynaecologist, who only identified himself as Dube, expressed concern over working conditions proposed by the Bill and appealed to Parliament to engage health personnel on the way forward.
“I don’t know what this amendment seeks to achieve, has dialogue failed? The government has to consult employees and negotiate a good settlement. This amendment was not carefully done because it seeks to propagate views of one side over those of everyone. It is clear that the government is pushing its own agenda, hence we have no choice but to leave our jobs, stay at home, go farm or hustle like everyone else,” Dube said.
Dube said he was sceptical of the so-called public consultation process because it appeared as if a decision had already been made on the matter, with the hearings being used to rubber stamp the process.
Anaesthetist, Ngqabutho Dube pointed out that there was mass exodus of health workers because of the government’s unwillingness to address pressing issues.
“The employer wants to criminalise and distance himself from listening to our grievances and when dialogue is closed professionals will silently leave. We have seen mass exodus of health practitioners going to the United Kingdom because the employer is refusing to give certificates of good standing to health professionals,” he said.
“Hospitals are empty, honestly we would rather sell tomatoes than work under scary conditions. The Bill seeks to curtail the labour rights of medical practitioners.”
Zimbabwe Medical Association president Francis Chiwora said the Bill was oppressive to the medical practitioners, citing a clause that says “any job action is restricted to seventy-two hours within any 14-day period. Any member, who makes or organises job action, faces prosecution with a potential sentence of three years in prison or a level 10 fine which is currently $70 000”.
This, according to Chiwora, gives the government a stranglehold of the health services while depriving workers of their freedom at the same time.