GOVERNMENT has resolved to deploy military medical personnel at all State hospitals to avoid disruptions caused by striking civilian nurses and doctors.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The move, which is widely viewed as Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s attempts to militarise hospitals in order to deal with striking health personnel, comes at a time the Health ministry announced that there were no vacant posts for doctors at government hospitals and, therefore, graduates seeking employment should consider joining the army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police as clinicians.
In a post-Cabinet media briefing yesterday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said government would now replace striking nurses with medical professionals from uniformed forces.
“Government resolved that nursing services be restructured to be supported by three pillars namely contract workers, health services permanent workers and secondment from the uniformed forces,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Cabinet was briefed by VP Chiwenga, as the Minister of Health and Child Care, on the withdrawal of labour by nurses. At its 38th meeting held on October 28, 2020, Cabinet was informed that the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) openly challenged the Cabinet decision on the cancellation of the flexi-working arrangement and defied the secretary for Health and Child Care directive for the association to reverse its statement.
“Cabinet resolved to cancel the flexi hours arrangement and that nurses who fail to report for duty be subjected to disciplinary processes, that daily attendance registers for nurses be submitted to the Health Service Board (HSB) and the Ministry of Health and Child Care head office, and that nursing services be restructured to be supported by three pillars, namely contract workers, health service permanent workers, and secondment from the uniformed forces,” she said.
Mutsvangwa said some nurses had continued to defy the government directive banning the flexi hours regime.
“The various nurses’ labour organisations comprising the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Confederation of Nurses Association, Theatre Nurses Association and the Nurses Educators Association met with the Health Services Board and resolved to comply with the government directive, save for the Zimbabwe Nurses Association. A total of 1 280 nurses failed to heed to the call to return to normal working hours,” she said.
As a result, Mutsvangwa said the HSB has started instituting disciplinary hearings for the defiant nurses.
Nurses have been engaged in strike action since 2018 demanding a living wage.
Their job action was followed by a strike by doctors who demanded an improvement in wages, conditions of service, as well as equipment and other medical materials to ensure safety while performing their duties.
Chiwenga was in September deployed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from fired former Health minister Obadiah Moyo.
Soon after his deployment, Chiwenga promised to deal with the rot in the health sector, but his ministry continues to be riddled with corruption, with recent allegations that his deputy John Mangwiro was involved in a US$6 million COVID-19 procurement scam.
In 2018, Chiwenga fired 16 000 striking nurses and said they would be replaced by newly-trained and retired staff.
At that time, Chiwenga dismissed the nurses in his capacity as the supervisor of the social services cluster.
He described the strike by the nurses as “politically motivated” and as actions that were beyond issues of conditions of service and welfare.