Zim shakes as doctors strike…work stoppage adds to tripple-whammy of corona, collapsing health system, economic rot

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Fungi Kwaramba and Vasco Chaya
STAFF WRITERS

©️  FEARFUL Zimbabweans who are reeling from the country’s worsening coronavirus menace now also have to contend with a major strike by medical doctors and nurses — all this coming at a time Zimbabwe’s healthcare system has collapsed, the Daily News reports.

The strike also comes as the under-pressure government confirmed yesterday that it would use several private hospitals in urban areas, to complement facilities such as the creaking Wilkins Hospital in Harare, in treating coronavirus patients.

The doctors and nurses who have embarked on industrial action are protesting the lack of protective clothing and adequate equipment at the country’s hospitals and clinics needed to treat coronavirus patients.
In a letter to the chief executive officers of the country’s major public hospitals, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Tawanda Zvakada, said yesterday that healthcare workers would not risk their lives in the current environment — further bemoaning the fact that government had not responded to their concerns.

“Pursuant to the meeting we had on Monday 23 March, 2020, in which we communicated to you our genuine grievances and expressed our fears concerning this deadly pandemic which has not spared healthcare workers as well, we expected an urgent response in writing from your office which has not come until now.

“We have expressed to you the issue of PPE (personal protective equipment) which is still not yet available.

“Whilst you continue to move around putting things in place, we would like to make it clear in no uncertain terms that our members will not be able to continue carrying out their duties with immediate effect,” Zvakada said.

“Any inconveniences caused regarding this position we have taken is sincerely regretted, but it was necessitated by a communication breakdown between the top management and the frontline doctors.

“Given the urgency of the matter and the need for social distancing, a hardcopy version of the same will be hand-delivered when the conditions are permissive,” Zvakada added.

Nurses immediately announced as well that they had also downed their tools.
“Following our letter that was presented to our employer 48 hours ago, informing them to urgently attend to our demands as frontline workers, it seems our concerns are not getting the urgency they deserve.

“So, and in that regard, all nurses are withdrawing their services with immediate effect until there is genuine action taken by the employer.
“We will only get back to work once our concerns have been swiftly acted upon,” the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) said.

Zina president Enoch Dongo confirmed yesterday that the nurses have since embarked on the industrial action.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo told the Daily News last night that all the concerns that were being raised by healthcare workers would be addressed as soon as possible.

“We have put an order for adequate protective equipment in order to cover all our health workers and we are looking into the issue of ICUs and ventilators too. Those issues will be addressed adequately,” he said.

This comes after the country received the first consignment of an assortment of equipment to fight coronavirus on Tuesday, which was part of a donation made to the whole of Africa by philanthropic Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

The issue of how poorly-prepared Zimbabwe is to effectively deal with Covid-19 were brought to the fore on Monday following the death of broadcaster Zororo Makamba on Monday — after apparently contracting the lethal virus in the United States of America (USA).

With regards to the use of private hospitals, Moyo said some of the facilities that had been identified for this purpose included the upmarket Arundel Hospital — formerly Rock Foundation Hospital, which is owned by jailed banker-cum-politician Munyaradzi Kekereke — who is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for the rape of a minor.

He also disputed social media claims that these facilities would be for the exclusive use of political elites and their families.

“It’s not (Arundel) a hospital for the elites. These are facilities that are being put in place by private players.
“We are establishing further testing centres. We have identified hospitals like St Anne’s in Harare and Ekusileni in Bulawayo.

“We have identified all facilities that are idle and we have among those … Rock Foundation. There is no discrimination. All people will be assisted,” Moyo told the Daily News.

“We are going to do the same for Victoria Falls. We want to create at least 20 facilities around the country so that people can go and get help there,” he added.

Rock Foundation Hospital has been under judicial management after it accrued massive debts.
Its administrator, Budhama Chikamhi, asked for written questions from the Daily News yesterday, which were sent to him but had not been responded to by the time of going to print.

Meanwhile, the founder of Trauma Centre Borrowable, Vivek Solanki, announced yesterday that he had been given the go-ahead by the Health and Child Care ministry to lead the recruitment of medical experts to treat coronavirus at private hospitals.

He said the doctors and other frontline workers doing duty at these facilities would be paid handsomely in United States dollars.

“We are in an unprecedented time, not just as a country. The whole world is fighting the coronavirus pandemic which is killing thousands of people within a short space of time.

“As a result, we are recruiting and training health personnel to fight this pandemic.
“The country might have beautiful and adequate health centres, but what is crucial is do we have enough skilled labour to work in these premises?” Solanki said.

“We need knowledgeable staff to work in these health centres and adequate labour is the most crucial tool in this fight. We need to take the pandemic head on,” he further told the Daily News.

 

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