Striking doctors have vowed to press on with their job boycott despite pleas by President Emmerson Mnangagwa for them to return to work amid revelations that scores of people could be dying in their homes due to lack of medical care.
Mnangagwa pleaded with senior doctors to abandon the strike that began last week during an address at the burial of Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri at the Heroes Acre on Friday.
The doctors joined nurses and other health workers, who have been on strike for over a month, as they demanded salaries in foreign currency and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE)to deal with Covid-19 cases.
Norman Matara, the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general, said the government should first pay health workers a living wage, provide adequate PPEs and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment to end the strikes.
“The government should simply meet its end of the bargain, pay health workers a living wage, provide them with adequate personal protective equipment, and equip hospitals with medicines and equipment,” Matara said.
“If they do this simple task, health workers will happily return to work and do their job of saving lives.”
“The government wants health workers to act “in the nation’s interest and exhibit a sense of responsibility’, yet the same government is not meeting its end of responsibilities.”
“Health workers cannot work on empty stomachs and without protective clothing simply because they save lives.”
Enock Dongo, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association president, said Mnangagwa should ensure the government addressed health workers’ grievances if he expected them to return to work.
“We heard what the president said, but we also want him to hear and listen to what we are saying.
“First, he must respect our work and we will also do our part,” Dongo said.
“We want the president to look into our issues. If he acknowledges our issues which are genuine, then he must address them.
“No way can we go into such a dangerous environment without wearing protective gear in the name of national interests, that will not work.”
“Right, now many nurses are being evicted from their lodgings because they failed to raise rentals, which are now US$40 to US$70, but salaries are below US$30.
“Even if they say we are not acting in the national interest, but we have families to look after.”
Public hospitals are turning away sick people, including those with Covid-19 symptoms, leading to fears that people are dying in their homes without any treatment.