BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
NURSES have accused the government of depriving them of the COVID-19 risk allowance several months after they were promised the stipend.
Government offered to pay allowances for health workers who contract the virus while on duty, but NewsDay gathered that nurses have not yet received the promised allowances.
According to the agreement, any worker Grade E5 and below will be entitled to US$650 if they contract the virus while on duty, while those Grade F and above will get US$1 000.
The nurses told NewsDay that the risk allowance promise was a “hoax” because some of them had fallen sick from the virus and had recovered, but no risk allowance money was given to them despite having applied for the money.
They said they have been ordered to apply for the allowance several times, but no money had been deposited into their bank accounts.
In some cases, the nurses said they were having difficulties in accessing the risk allowance application forms.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enoch Dongo yesterday said he was no longer in a position to pacify his members on the issue of the risk allowance as efforts to get into a dialogue with Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga and secretary Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza over the welfare of health workers were in vain.
After efforts to convene for a dialogue with Chiwenga failed, Zina approached the High Court for intervention in several cases which are pending.
“Ever since the ministry was taken over by the Vice-President (Chiwenga) and the current permanent secretary (Chimedza), dialogue over health workers’ welfare is difficult,” Dongo said.
“They are needlessly tough. Right now, I don’t even know what to report to our members over the COVID-19 risk allowance.
“But if we continue under the current circumstances, the virus is going to wipe away all nurses at health institutions because as frontline workers, they are highly exposed to the virus.”
He said government should show that it was concerned with the welfare of the nurses by providing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to the frontline workers.
Added Dongo: “In the event that a nurse has fallen victim to the virus, government should show concern by making sure that the health worker accesses the required care and drugs. As it is now, Zina has lost count of health workers who have contracted the virus and many of them are exposed to unsafe working environments.
“So pathetic is the situation that COVID-19 positive nurses have resorted to creating social media groups where they console each other.”
The nurses also accused government of abandoning them once they tested positive to the virus and authorities were not even showing compassion to those who would have contracted the virus.
Teachers’ union leaders recently also accused the government of neglecting their members infected with the virus by replacing them with healthy teachers, without showing any concern about the welfare of those who would have fallen ill.
Since the country was hit by the virus early last year, health workers have been going on recurrent strikes demanding risk allowances, PPE and equipped health facilities to help deal with the deadly virus.
They returned to work after government promised to address the complaints, but most of their demands have not been met.
“The government seems not to be even concerned about us when we contract the virus,” a nurse who tested positive to the virus said.
“The moment we become incapacitated to be on duty after contracting the virus, we appear useless to the authorities. This is despite the fact that our duties expose us to the virus more than any other ordinary citizen. After falling ill, with the meagre salary, I can’t even afford to buy the prescribed drugs.”
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said he was attending to a medical emergency and promised to call back.
Chimedza declined to comment, and requested written questions.
The ministry’s spokesperson Donald Mujiri said he was not at work and referred NewsDay to the Health Service Board (HSB).
HSB chairperson Paulinus Sikosana dropped calls, and repeated efforts to get a comment from him were futile.