SENIOR doctors have joined the strike by their juniors citing increased workload as the Labour Court spurned government attempts to declare the crippling industrial action by the medical professionals illegal.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
Low-level doctors went on strike on December 1 demanding to be paid in United States dollars and improved working conditions.
The strike forced public hospitals throughout the country to significantly scale down operations, leaving patients stranded.
On Friday, senior doctors that had helped to ensure that critically ill patients received treatment threw in the towel as the negotiations between the government and the striking medical professionals had reached a deadlock.
According to a Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association letter dated December 14, 2018 and addressed to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals clinical director and copied to the Health Services Board, the senior doctors said they were no longer able to cope with the workload.
“Due to the ongoing industrial action by junior doctors, we as registrars are now overwhelmed by the workload and we are now unable to effectively discharge our services. We are, therefore, withdrawing our services immediately,” read part of the letter which was signed by Mthabisi Bhebhe, the secretary-general of the association.
Last week, the government tried in vain to declare the strike by doctors illegal after acting Labour minister Kazembe Kazembe issued a show cause order.
Kazembe’s order was not given to the doctors who are on strike or their representatives.
The order was filed on December 13 and the parties were immediately invited by Labour Court judge Justice Euna Makamure. Makamure ruled that the order was defective.
The doctors’ lawyers led by Munyaradzi Gwisai challenged the order by the minister arguing that there was nothing before the court and that they had appeared out of courtesy.
“Effectively what it then means is that the strike by the junior doctors continues and has not been dealt with by the court. “There is nothing that can be used to adjudge the strike illegal,” said Gwisai after the ruling.
“Our understanding of the law is that the papers so filed from the very outset are that it is the application for show cause order and the application for the disposal is legally invalid.
“They are incurably bad that they cannot be amended or regularised. The whole process followed was legally flawed. And the best solution is to address the grievances of the concerned junior doctors and not unnecessary legal battles that are clad with flaws and errors.”
The doctors also want the government to provide drugs and proper equipment at hospitals.
This is the second strike by doctors in 2018 after another crippling job boycott in March.