Zimbabwe’s striking doctors have castigated the Minister of Health and Childcare, Obadiah Moyo for agitating for legislation to bar doctors from engaging in job action through an amendment of the Health Services Act.
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:
The Bill will make sure that collective bargaining and job action cannot be an indefinite exercise as it will endanger the patients’ lives.
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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.
In response, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said that they were unsettled by Minister Moyo’s statement and urged him to champions doctors’ interests. In a statement on Wednesday, the ZHDA said:
We have noted with concern unsettling unconstitutional statements made in the afternoon yesterday by Hon Dr Obadiah Moyo, the Minister of Health, to bar our members from exercising their labour rights to collective job action in cases of labour disputes with the employer.
The remarks come at a time when we have been engaging the Health Service Board and Ministry of Health to improve the working conditions in hospitals and create a suitable, safe, environment where doctors can assist patients optimally.
The Bill will cause an unintended severe brain drain with medical personnel seeking alternative and better working conditions in places where professionals are treated with dignity and fairness.
Doctors must be fairly treated as workers who have full labour rights like any worker in Zimbabwe. They have a right for collective bargaining and to demand better conditions of services.
We, therefore, reject any attempt meant to interfere with these rights. We remind the Minister that he is expected to come up with policies that are meant to enable doctors as health care providers in discharging their duties and suggest solutions to that effect.