The government is contemplating amending the Health Services Act to, among other things, make it illegal for a doctors’ strike to go on for more than a few hours.
Speaking to New Ziana on Tuesday, Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo said the amendment will classify health practitioners as essential service providers who cannot go on strike for extended periods. He said:
At the moment we seem to be working on a willy-nilly basis and we want to make sure that all our workers appreciate that it is actually (provided for in) an Act, that when you are health worker you are providing an essential service.
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The Bill will make sure that collective bargaining and job action cannot be an indefinite exercise as it will endanger the patients’ lives.
So there will be a defined period where people can voice their concerns but not indefinitely, maybe a matter of hours carrying a placard and making sure that your statement is heard but to go forever and allow patients to die, that is the bottom line.
We have to make sure that while we should be allowing people to express themselves they should correctly express themselves, responsibly.
… We appreciate that our health care workforce also needs to survive but everybody else also needs to survive so we should be able to work within a framework where we can say yes we have heard it, yes we are going to do something about it.
In recent years, doctors have gone on strike on several occasions in a bid to force the government to improve their working conditions. From December to January this year, junior doctors were on strike for approximately 40 days continuously.
With inflation having gone up by over 1 000 per over the past 12 months, doctors’ salaries have been rendered useless, forcing them to call for yet another on strike on Tuesday, 3 September 2019.