Zimbabwe’s Health Services Board (HSB) has fired 77 junior government doctors who had been on strike since Sept. 3 demanding improved working conditions.
More doctors are expected to be dismissed as disciplinary hearings continue in their absence.
A letter from the chief executive officer of one of the major hospitals in Harare to one of the doctors said that the disciplinary authority had imposed the penalty of dismissal with effect from Nov. 5, 2019, for continuing to be absent from work “in sympathy with the unlawful collective job action”.
Those in government accommodation were directed to vacate the premises within one calendar month of receipt of the letters of dismissal, failure of which they would be evicted, the letter, which was seen by Xinhua on Wednesday, added.
However, the doctors were advised to appeal their dismissals in terms of the governing regulations if they felt aggrieved by the action taken by the authorities.
HSB had summoned the striking doctors to disciplinary hearings starting Nov. 1 following their rejection of a labor court ruling that the strike was illegal, which they said they could not obey because they did not have the financial resources to enable them to report for duty.
When they were summoned for the hearings, they also cited “incapacitation” as a reason for not attending, resulting in the hearings going ahead in their absence.
In response to the dismissals, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said in a statement that the decision to fire the doctors would backfire on the government.
“This shocking decision and direct affront to the doctoring profession shows clearly that they don’t care about the suffering masses of our people and ordinary citizens who rely on government hospitals for health care.
“This move has come without solutions but as an exacerbation to the current ongoing impasse and it’s a clear reflection of how the Health Services Board continues to negotiate in bad faith.”
The association said it would not be intimidated or deterred from asking for a living wage.
“We eagerly wait to see how this move which defies all common sense will serve as a solution to the already strained health care system. Nothing has been done to improve the welfare of doctors and hospitals working environments therefore doctors nationwide remain incapacitated,” it added.
In a media briefing following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said the government was working on normalizing the situation at public hospitals following the doctors’ dismissal.
Cabinet was informed by the Minister of Health and Child Care (Obadiah Moyo) that the public hospitals medical doctors’ strike has now gone beyond 63 days. Medical services at most central hospitals therefore remain constrained, she said.
“The situation is being exacerbated by City of Harare nurses, who have since stopped reporting for duty, citing incapacitation,” she said.
She said that measures were being taken to ensure that the situation returned to normal soon.
The situation has remained dire at the hospitals with no doctors reporting to work except for those providing emergency services. Enditem