January 26, 2007

Doctors threaten to leave en masse

Zimbabwe’s striking doctors have threatened to quit and leave the country en masse if the government did not urgently move to end a six-week strike that has paralysed state hospitals. According to Hospital Doctors Association (HDA) president Kudakwashe Nyamutukwa locally trained doctors were in demand in neighbouring countries and they could leave if the strike dragged on or if the government attempted to use strong-arm tactics against the strikers.
"We have got our certificates from the University of Zimbabwe and any country can take us on the basis of those certificates. It would not be advisable for the government to delay or complicate this matter any further,’ said Nyamutukwa.

State doctors went on strike to pressure the government to improve working conditions and that it hikes salaries by 8.000%. Doctors were earning around Z$56.000 per month but the government has increased salaries to Z$239.000, an amount the doctors say is still too way below their minimum demand of Z$5-million a month. Acting Health Minister Sydney Sekeramayi said the government was still in negotiations with the doctors and hoped to reach an agreement soon. "It would be premature to talk about anything. We are trying to persuade them to return to work. Our hope is to reach an agreement soon,” he said.

At least 350 doctors are on strike and the government would struggle to find replacements if it were to fire or let them resign and leave the country. Zimbabwe is already facing a shortage of doctors and nurses many of who left to seek better paying jobs abroad. Nurses at various hospitals have also joined the strike and patients have been left in the care of young student nurses. (The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)


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