Zimbabwean doctors in public hospitals are on strike again for the second time this year. They are insisting on a better pay and conditions, a union official said. It has been such a struggle with a terrible economy in the current President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
There has been a shortage of basic goods, medicines, and fuel as a result of the scarcity of the US dollars which was adopted by the country in 2009.
Representing 1000 members, Mathabisi Bebhe, Secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, informed the public that most junior doctors have dropped their tools. This was in five major hospitals to protest over their allowances and drugs’ shortages.
“We are understaffed and underpaid and there are no medications in the hospitals,” Bebhe said.
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He said that more than half of the doctors in the public sector joined the indefinite strike.
With hospitals already short of drugs and reliant on patients to buy them, local pharmacies are no longer accepting insurance policies for purchases, instead of demanding US dollars in cash. Whenever bank cards are used, the prices are increased to more than three times higher.
“We are really hopeful that the government will intervene as early as possible. The duration of the industrial action depends on when the government gives a proper practical solution.”
Doctors attend to emergency cases only
Government officials seem to be silent about the issue since Monday as there has been no comment from them. Although they previously requested doctors to present their grievances while at work and rely on military doctors to help at state hospitals during strikes.
Earlier in March, the doctors went on a strike and won an increase in pay and allowances, ending the first big labour dispute the President, Mnangagwa faced since taking power.
But doctors were still struggling to survive, Bebhe said after prices of basic goods rose by at least 300 percent since October. Annual inflation was 20.85% that month, the first time it has hit double digits in ten years.
The doctors, who earn a basic monthly salary of about $385 before allowances, are also pressing the government to raise on-call allowances by 25 percent to $10 an hour paid in cash.
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