March 20, 2019

Divisions rock striking doctors’ camp as strike fatigue sets in

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STRIKE fatigue, going for a full month with no salary and differences over offers made by the Health Services Board have split the striking doctors’ camp right in the middle as some feel the need to go back t work while others insist the strike is still ongoing.

When the junior doctors embarked on the strike on 1 December, many of them never thought it would be a long haul, but with the government unwilling to give concessions it cannot meet, the strike has been one long “hell of a ride” for the medical officers.

The extent of divisions was exposed on Friday from messages on the status of a five-week-long strike which was said to have been called off at the behest of First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife Friday met leaders of over 500 junior doctors who downed tools early last month with claims by the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) president Elias Muzoremba soon after that they have resolved to call off the crippling job action.

This was however contradicted by ZHDA secretary general Mthabisi Bhebhe who said the union was yet to meet and agree as a collective on how to respond.

“Members of the executive met with First Lady but no agreement was reached,” Bhebhe told NewZimbabwe.com.

“The strike has not been called off.

“We have seen the state media reports which are insinuating that the doctors will go back to work after meeting the First Lady. That is all lies.”

Bhebhe said the first lady, instead, promised to take striking doctors’ grievances to the “relevant authorities because information was being distorted”.

Earlier on, Muzoremba said the executive had agreed “in principle” to call off the strike following assurances by the first lady she was going to take their grievances to higher authority.

“Yes we had a meeting with the First Lady and we have agreed in principle to go back to work while our grievances are being looked into while she engages the authorities,” Muzoremba told journalists.

“We also requested that some issues be solved as a matter of urgency while others should be addressed in the long term.”

He said they were now going to convey the message to members on what had been agreed.

Also addressing journalists at State House soon after her meeting with doctors’ representatives, Mrs Mnangagwa said doctors had requested a meeting with her to air their grievances.

“…They said their reputation has been tarnished because they are now being labelled hypocrites,” said the First Lady.

“So we met and we discussed their grievances and issues they raised, some of them can be solved immediately, but some need time and they can be addressed in the long run because of the economic challenges the country is facing.

“But what has made me very happy is that they have agreed to go back to work, some of their issues will be dealt with while they are at work. The economy is in shambles and the government is working to revive it.”

Doctors embarked on the job action to press for US dollar wages, constant drug supplies and relevant medical kit at their different work stations.

Government insists it has no resources to pay its workforce in hard currency, something that has prolonged the impasse.

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