Paidamoyo Chipunza, Harare Bureau
THE Health Service Board (HSB) is likely to commence disciplinary hearings against all doctors who ignored the last Friday’s Labour Court ruling ordering them to return to work within 48 hours.
This follows revelations that the provision for arbitration in the ruling was premised on the doctors returning to work, which they defied.
Furthermore, striking doctors who spend more than 30 days without reporting for work will not be paid their October salaries.
Speaking from Harare Central Hospital where he was assessing the situation on the ground including availability of medicines and equipment, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said Government was still open for dialogue and would want the striking doctors to return to work while negotiations continue.
“The arbitration process as of today, I have been advised by the Attorney General that because the doctors did not meet the deadline, they didn’t turn up for work, so that provision now falls away,” said Dr Moyo.
He said Government will continue to be guided by the law in its quest to address the impasse with the doctors.“The HSB will now look at its regulations and we will just follow the law. We cannot do anything that is outside the law,” said Dr Moyo.
In relation to payment of striking doctors’ salaries, the Minister said Government paid everyone who reported for work and would be paying the 60 percent adjustment to the same cadres before the end of the month. “Government has already made an obligation and commitment of paying the 60 percent increase towards health specific allowances and naturally if people are at work, they will benefit from that.
“The 60 percent adjustments are there for all those who are working so while you are at work you get your money and while at work you can also negotiate for adjustments,” said Dr Moyo.
He could however, not immediately provide details of the number of doctors who have taken heed of the Labour Court ruling to return to work within the 48-hour period saying figures have been fluctuating. “We are not at the optimum as you can see that is why I keep calling on the doctors to return to work but I understand Chitungwiza Central Hospital has been admitting more patients from what I have been told and I am going to verify that,” said Dr Moyo.
Commenting on the status of drugs and equipment, Dr Moyo said Government has released a further US$2 million for replenishment of medicines.
“NatPharm keeps coming to replenish medicines, yes there are some medicines for chronic illnesses which we need to top up but that is under control, an order has already been placed so we are expecting that delivery,” he said.
Dr Moyo said deployment of equipment to institutions was also progressing well with the first phase having been completed. “When people come back to work, we want them to come back and find adequate working equipment in place but that is not the end, we are going to ensure that we place more tenders. Already there is a tender placed for medical equipment and that should not take too long and we should be able to get the system fully functional,” he said.
Doctors downed tools on September 3 demanding a salary adjustment equivalent to the interbank exchange rate. Government offered a 60 percent adjustment to health specific allowances, which the rest of the health workers accepted, except for junior doctors.