By Lisa Shirichena
The strike by Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) doctors entered its second day yesterday amid indications that the health insurer was awaiting the release of funds from Government to ease the situation.
Doctors attested to PSMAS institutions that are administered by its investment wing PSMI, began an industrial action on Monday protesting over unpaid salaries stretching over five months.
But there was no immediate end in sight to the strike action with the PSMAS board indicating yesterday that it was pinning hopes on Government paying part of what it owes in order for the organisation to pay its workers.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said she was not aware of the strike and was only reading about it in the newspapers.
The authorities at PSMAS, she said, had not briefed her on the prevailing situation.
“Today we were supposed to meet with the board of PSMAS, but I had a Cabinet meeting,” she said. “The meeting was supposed to take place after the Cabinet meeting, but for some reasons they did not come. As you know, a strike is an emergency issue but I have not been briefed about it.
“We are still waiting to be briefed. Obviously we are concerned and we will sit down with our principals to chat the way forward.”
Minister Mupfumira said as Government, they were aware of the challenges facing the medical aid society. “As Government, we are concerned about the contributions made by the members and payments to service providers. That is where our interest is.”
PSMAS board chairman Mr Jeremiah Bvirindi said they were expecting payment from Government and would pay the doctors their salaries thereafter.
“We are doing all that we can to make sure that our clients get access to our health facilities. All those who owe us money should bring back our money for us to make a way forward. We have not received money from the Government, we are still waiting for it,” Mr Bvirindi said.
The strike has also forced the closure of some PSMI clinics resulting in PSMAS members having to use cash to access medical attention.
The strike also comes against the background of a petition by the Medical Professional and Allied Workers Union last week Friday seeking Minister Mupfumira’s intervention to help improve the plight of workers at PSMAS and PSMI.
The union’s national organising secretary Mr Lancelot Mpofu said PSMI workers who had salary arrears which were up to two months had not been informed on what progress was being done to remedy the discrepancy.
“We wrote the letter because there has been insensitivity to the workers problems. The workers are now living in a state of job insecurity given the information that is circulating that the board and directors of the two institutions have resolved to retrench 300 workers who are linked to some individuals,” said Mr Mpofu.
“At the moment junior staff want to join the strike but they have been threatened that if they do that they will be given dismissal letters. Clinics especially in Harare have closed and they referred their patients to West End Hospital which is failing to cater for the patients because there are a few doctors,” Mr Mpofu said. The Herald