JUNIOR doctors have threatened to go on strike, joining the industrial action by nurses that started last week citing deteriorating working conditions, which will negatively affect the country’s battle against the growing coronavirus pandemic.
Nurses have been picketing since Wednesday last week, demanding salaries in United States dollars after rejecting an offer to hike their earnings by 50% and US$75 allowances.
They said soaring inflation, which is the world’s
highest at 785,55% as of May, has drastically reduced the value of their Zimdollar salaries and has seen prices of goods rising almost daily.
The situation is reminiscent of the hyperinflation era of 2008, when prices changed several times daily to keep up with inflation, which eventually topped 500 billion percent.
Junior doctors could soon join the strike, with officials saying they were “in a similar situation” to that of nurses.
“We struggle to get fuel when we are on call. Many stations are selling in US dollars, so we are now incapacitated,” an official with an association representing the doctors told NewsDay, but preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Last year, the doctors went on strike for over four months over pay and poor working conditions, paralysing the country’s healthcare sector.
The strike only ended in January this year when they accepted an offer by Econet founder and telecoms billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, who set up a $100 million fund to pay up to 2 000 doctors a subsistence allowance of US$300 a month at the time to help them with transport and living costs.
The programme was for six months.
Nurses say they will not return to work until their demands are met, a situation confirmed by Mpilo Central Hospital acting clinical director Xolani Ndlovu yesterday.
“Most of the qualified nurses are at home, they did not report for duty. They vowed that they will not come back until government addresses their demands. We only have a skeleton staff most of them being nurses on probation. We also have doctors and some have already started threatening to join the strike soon,” Ndlovu said, adding the hospital was dealing with emergencies only.
Speaking to NewsDay yesterday, Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president Robert Chiduku said the health workers would not bow down to pressure.