IN a desperate bid to avert a total collapse of the country’s health delivery system, the government has secretly agreed to raise salaries for nurses by a whopping 800% to
around $1,6 million a month, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
Nurses in the country’s major government hospitals went on strike on Monday demanding a review of their salaries and working conditions.
Sources close to the negotiations said Health and Child Welfare minister Dr David Parirenyatwa agreed to the figure on Wednesday after a meeting with members of nurses’ representative body, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina). Zina afterwards convened a meeting with the nurses to inform them of the deal. The nurses immediately agreed to return to work.
Nurses embarked on their industrial action on Monday, joining junior and middle-level doctors who went on an indefinite strike last Thursday demanding a monthly salary of $30 million.
Analysts said the deal could provoke discontent among other civil servants whose salaries have failed to keep up with inflation. It is also regarded as unsustainable in terms of government’s health budget.
Parirenyatwa yesterday refused to comment on the agreement he had reached with the nurses.
“I need to negotiate quietly with my health professionals and I do not need to do it through the press,” he said.
“Nurses were demanding a salary of not less than $3 million a month,” said a source privy to the discussions.
“A compromise was reached and we finally settled for a figure of $1,6 million a month and this does not include allowances such as housing and transport which will be added later. This will be backdated to October as the money is expected to be paid on November 23,” said the source.
Zina acting president Oslinah Tagutanazvo refused to comment on the figure that they had agreed on.
“We have reached an understanding with the minister but it is too early to comment,” said Tagutanazvo
Before the hefty increase nurses were getting a basic salary of $195 000a month, including allowances.
On Monday hospital officials in Bulawayo, Mutare and Chitungwiza were forced to discharge patients from wards.
Hospital Doctors Association pre-sident Phibion Manyanga yesterday said doctors would remain on strike.
“We will meet today to map the way forward,” he said.
“The minister must put a reasonable figure on the table and give us a written commitment. We also recommend that the salary be reviewed periodically,” he said.
Some senior doctors who are deal-ing with emergencies said they might join their colleagues if the minister does not respond to their demands.
“The minister is effectively saying doctors are useless,” one senior doctor said
“We were surprised that the minister quickly agreed on a figure of $1,6 million with the nurses but has remained mum on the doctors who were the first to down tools. We cannot continue to be overburdened,” he said.