In a statement, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) said its members remain employed by the Board because none of them had been served with letters terminating their services as of close of business yesterday.
“We have engaged our employer, the Health Services Board, to confirm that it will not implement the directive issued by the Vice President, by no later than 1600 hours today (Thursday). Our employer is yet to respond to us,” reads part of the statement.
“Further, as at the time of making this statement, none of our members have been served with letters terminating their services with the employer. They, accordingly therefore remain employed by the Health Services Board.
“As our grievances, which relate primarily to poor and dangerous working conditions remain unresolved and unaddressed — our position remains the same as the situation has not changed. We reiterated that we remain open to engagement with our employer to resolve our concerns in the interest of all our stakeholders,” added Zina.
The HSB was created through an Act of Parliament, the Health Service Act [Chapter 15:16 No. 28/2004].
The Act provides for the establishment of the HSB, which became operational in June 2005 as per Statutory Instrument 88B of 2005.
Its functions, exercised in consultation with the minister of Health and Child Care, include appointing persons to offices, posts and grades; creating grades in the health service and fixing conditions of service for its members.
The HSB also supervises and monitors health policy planning and public health; inquiring into and dealing with complaints made by members of the health service; supervising, advising and monitoring the technical performance of hospital management boards and State-aided hospitals.
Because the board is still to serve its employees with letters terminating their contracts, the nurses, who vowed to continue with their job action yesterday, are unable to begin legal proceedings.
This comes amid indications that government is now seeking dialogue to end the hiatus created by the protracted job action.
Yesterday, scores of jobless nurses turned up at Parirenyatwa Hospital in a bid to fill the posts that have fallen vacant after the alleged firing of all striking nurses.
The desperate job seekers tried to get audience with the HSB before they were advised to fill in forms and submit them.
On Tuesday, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga announced the dismissal of an estimated 15 000 nurses who had downed tools in protest of low salaries and poor conditions of service.
Further, he instructed the HSB to speedily engage all unemployed but trained nurses in the country and to recall retired nursing staff into the service.
Chiwenga claimed the striking nurses had been given $17 million through the Health and Child Care ministry, but still did not call off the strike, adding the issue was political.
Accordingly, he said government will now use the funds to support the fresh recruitment drive, which is now in full swing.
The mass sackings on the eve of Zimbabwe’s 38th Independence Day celebrations have been roundly condemned by the generality of the citizens.
In his Independence Day speech, President Emmerson Mnangagwa appeared to subtly contradict Chiwenga when he directed the ministry of Health to re-engage the fired striking nurses.
He also bizarrely rewarded non-striking nurses with benefits already agreed to by government under a $17,1 million package released this week.
This has now outraged observers and nurses alike who believe government has returned to its default mode of preferring divide and rule tactics over dialogue.
Itai Rusike, the executive director of the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH), yesterday said the action by government to reward those nurses who have not joined the strike smacks of the divide and rule tactics meant to further fragment the nurses and, possibly, instil fear to join any future industrial job action.
“We urge the nurses and health worker organisations to remain united, strengthen solidarity and support for each other as government will be keen to exploit any weakness and fragmentation to the detriment of the nurses and the health delivery system,” Rusike told the Daily News.
The CWGH executive director is encouraging genuine dialogue between government and the nurses to avoid the unnecessary suffering, pain and deaths of innocent patients.
“We believe that the problems in the health sector cannot be solved through intimidation, threats and dismissals. We deplore the militant stance taken by the government and call for dialogue to be given a chance whilst putting patients first,” said Rusike.
“The deployment of student nurses, unemployed nurses and those that had been retired will further put in danger the lives of patients as most of them will need refresher training courses to keep them abreast with the ever changing developments in the health sector. We do not need stop-gap measures but lasting solutions. Our public health delivery system is broken and non-functional and will need sober minds in order to fix it and make it functional again.”
The strike action has affected several central hospitals, children’s units, provincial hospitals and caused cessation of emergency lifesaving procedures throughout the country.
Labour unions said the dismissal of nurses will have a negative bearing on the welfare of people who have now been left at the mercy of inexperienced nurses and spent forces.
“The situation in hospitals is troubling,” noted the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president Peter Mutasa.
“Chiwenga and his team are responsible for all the deaths and suffering patients are going through. The purported and unlawful dismissal of nurses must be immediately rescinded and nurses’ grievances should be resolved urgently,” Mutasa said.
In a joint statement issued jointly by the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the two organisations said they were appalled by government’s arbitrary decision to dismiss all striking nurses from their positions at State-run hospitals.
“ZADHR and ZLHR condemn this dangerous and irresponsible response by the government as illogical and that it will have serious consequences on the welfare of people, who have been condemned to be attended to by some inexperienced and or retired nurses,” they said. – DailyNews