via Govt, doctors deal imminent | The Herald 13 November 2014 by Diana Nherera
GOVERNMENT yesterday held discussions with striking doctors and offered increases in their allowances, raising hopes that the doctors could return to work soon. The striking doctors, through their representative body, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said they were locked in talks with their employer, the Health Services Board and the Ministry of Health and Child Care the whole of yesterday over their allowances.
ZHDA media and publicity officer Mr Francis Rwodzi said the Health Services Board had offered doctors an increase to some of their allowances.
Mr Rwodzi said ZHDA is expected to meet striking doctors tomorrow morning to address them on Government’s offer and the meeting would determine whether or not doctors would end the strike.
“Doctors are almost reaching a truce with their employer as they have rectified some anomalies and we are only waiting for a few logistics from the doctors themselves,” he said.
“ZHDA is meeting with doctors tomorrow at 8am and the doctors will tell us whether or not they accept or decline what Government offered.”
According to ZHDA, they engaged in seemingly fruitful discussions over the rectification of some key allowances with the Health Services Board.
ZHDA said it was hopeful that normal health delivery would be restored soon due to the positive feedback that they received from yesterday’s discussions.
They could, however, not comment further on the contents of the negotiations, but expressed optimism that yesterday’s meetings could be the breakthrough that the striking doctors have been waiting for.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Paul Chimedza could not be drawn into commenting on the breakthrough in negotiations, saying doing so could jeopardise what was agreed in yesterday’s meeting.
He said that his ministry would only be in a position to comment on the matter today.
Junior and middle level doctors from the country’s referral hospitals went on strike more than two weeks ago over “poor salaries” and allowances.
They were joined by some senior doctors and then on Tuesday, doctors from provincial and district hospitals also joined the industrial action, further crippling the country’s health delivery system.
They want an increase of their salaries from US$282 to US$1 200 a month.
The doctors are also demanding an upward review of their housing allowance from US$250 to US$350 a month and a duty-free car facility.
The Health Services Board had last month offered them a new on-call allowance of US$10 per hour from 35 cents and introduced a risk allowance against diseases such as Ebola, tuberculosis and HIV and Aids.
The board said it would only give a written commitment to striking doctors after the national budget presentation expected this month.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Retired Brigadier General Gerald Gwinji on Monday appealed to striking doctors to return to work, but ZHDA said it was unable to convince its members without a written agreement.
The situation at Parirenyatwa Hospital and Harare Central Hospital remained critical yesterday as the few doctors present were turning away patients and attending only to emergency cases due to the shortage of manpower.
People are opting for treatment at council clinics, while a few who could afford were being attended to by private doctors.