JUNIOR doctors’ industrial action entered its second week without a solution in sight after they defied a government order to return to work befo
re their grievances can be addressed, the Zimbabwe Independent heard.
Hospital Doctors Association (HDA) president Dr Kudakwashe Nyamutukwa said government’s arrogance was making it hard for the parties to engage in fruitful dialogue.
“All we are saying is that if the government wants us to work it must meet our demands and not to hold on to our certificates of good standing,” Nyamutukwa said. “We don’t want patients or people to suffer. But the ministry is making the people suffer.”
Junior doctors went on strike last week following a deadlock over salary increases and improved working conditions.
They currently earn $41 million a month and are demanding that the figure be raised to around $250 million a month. They are also demanding a review of their accommodation and vehicle loan allowances.
Nyamutukwa said certificates of good standing were normally issued to junior doctors after completing their housemanship but that government was withholding these.
HDA said it might be forced to take legal action to compel the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council to release the certificates.
In a letter copied to the council and Health and Child Welfare permanent secretary, the doctors demanded that government release their certificates of good standing or face legal action.
Junior doctors have accused the government of using the state media to peddle falsehoods alleging that the state pays doctors’ fees and welfare at the medical school.
“To put it on record, government is not paying fees for students in the medical school. Right now there is a standstill at the medical school as the university is demanding fees from the last group that is collecting its results. The group is supposed to begin its housemanship on Monday,” said Nyamutukwa.
The University of Zimbabwe is demanding that students settle their fees before collecting results.
Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Edwin Muguti, defended fees being paid by medical students arguing that they were insignificant compared to the total cost of their training.
“Training doctors is very expensive, what they are paying is a very small amount compared to the total cost that is being settled by government,” Muguti said.
Muguti appealed to the doctors still on strike to go back to work while their grievances were being looked into.
“We are still appealing to the doctors to go back to work. The Health Services Board is still working on new salary scales. Housing, transport and rural allowances will also be reviewed,” Muguti added.
The six-year economic crisis hitting the country has resulted in medical practitioners fleeing the country to work abroad and in neighbouring countries where they get better salaries and allowances.