Today doctors in Zimbabwe have embarked on a nationwide strike after they failed to reach an agreement with the government. The doctors have three major grievances against the government which they want to be addressed before returning to work. According to some reports, however, talks to end the strike are still ongoing and some doctors are at work.
Here are the reasons why the doctors went on strike and other things that you may not know about the public health system in Zimbabwe.
- For one to be admitted at Government Hospital such as Parirenyatwa Hospital, Harare Hospital, etc, one needs to pay an admission deposit of between $50 and $100. However, this amount does not include drugs and things such as IV solutions (drips)
- Hospitals do not provide essential items such as drugs, drips and cannulas. A cannula is a thin tube inserted into a vein or body cavity to administer medication, drain off fluid, or insert a surgical instrument. If these items are needed, the patient will need to purchase them on their own or if they are lucky enough their relatives can buy for them before treatment can take place.
- Government pharmacies at the general hospitals are usually empty or not fully stocked and most times do not have the essential drugs.
- However, most general hospitals have private pharmacies which are always fully stocked with essential medication, although no one seems to admit that they own these pharmacies. Doctors claim not to know the true owners of the pharmacies.
- Public Health system is compromised due to water cuts and erratic supplies of water to public hospitals. This compromises the general level of hygiene within the hospital, putting both patients and doctors at risk.
- When a doctor is on call they earn $1.20 per hour. Being on call means a doctor will be standing in to cover any emergency and this only happens during the night time shift and can last between 8 – 12 hours. Doctors are paid $228 per month for on-call allowances, meaning per hour it comes down to $1.20.
- A pint of blood costs $130.00 If the patient has no medical aid or cash they will not be able to be treated and sometimes may die. This also means that a doctor has to work 108 hours on call just to be able to afford one pint of blood.
- Doctors’ first grievance: The government recently announced that it has instituted a hiring freeze on new doctors. This means that doctors can no longer be employed by the government after two years of internship due to the fact that the government does not have money. The doctors are saying if the government is unable to hire them, then it should give the doctors open practising certificates to allow them to find employment elsewhere.
- Doctors’ second grievance: Doctors want the minimum on call allowance to be increased to $720 per month. This will translate to approximately $10 per hour compared to the current $1.20 per hour.
- Doctor’s third grievance: Doctors want the government to honour their word to subsidise their purchase of motor vehicles. Since the government is basically broke and has no money to pay directly, the doctors want to be granted a tax exemption for them to bring in cars which whey will use in the course of their duties.