Nurses, doctors partially withdraw services after declaring ‘incapacitation’

HARARE – Doctors and nurses have followed teachers in declaring “incapacitation” as the government faces widespread discontent from its workers over poor pay.

The Zimbabwe Health Apex Council (HAC) on Wednesday said health workers would not avail themselves for “on call, call out and night duties” with immediate effect.

HAC, in a letter addressed to the health services board, said it reached this decision after “having the negotiation space closed for them for almost a year” by the government.

The health workers said a decent 20 percent pay increase was derisory.

The HAC said “non-claimable health sector specific allowances for on call, call out/standby, night duty, nurse managers and special health allowances have not been reviewed for the past two years.

“Donor-funded nostro retention allowances ceased in 2020 and has now contributed to the mass exodus of health workers,” the HAC, which brings together nurses and doctors’ unions, said.

In a letter to the health services board, the workers added: “There is little incentive to continue going to work in the health sector. Covid-19 risk allowances were last reviewed in 2020 and as such are now very negligible considering the exposure of the health workers during this pandemic.”

HAC also castigated the government for unilaterally stopping the vehicle loan scheme agreed upon in 2019.

The 20 percent pay increase announced earlier this month and backdated to January “provided little relief to the socio-economic status of the health workers,” HAC said.

The partial withdrawal of services by health workers comes after a crippling teachers’ strike at the start of the first term. The government has threatened to fire the teachers.

Civil servants have a common demand to the government for the restoration of their salaries to 2018 levels when the lowest paid worker was on US$540 per month.

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