By Farayi Machamire
Doctors are demanding to be paid their salaries in United States dollars to cushion themselves from rampaging inflation.
At the same time, the doctors have implored government to declare the situation in the health sector a state of emergency to enable it to seek aid from international partners.
In a letter to Health Services Board (HSB) chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said it has noted with concern that after the announcement of the fiscal and monetary policies early this month, prices of basic commodities have increased remarkably, resulting in shortages of mostly basic commodities.
“Also, the sellers prefer foreign currency and some are not accepting Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) currency.
“In addition to that, the Collective Bargaining Agreement of March 2018 states that our salaries are paid in US dollars.
“As of this month, our members were paid in RTGS and cannot access basic goods and commodities, let alone travel to work,” ZHDA said, adding:
“We implore the government to pay salaries in US dollars as previously agreed.
“Furthermore, we request non-monetary incentives such as fuel to be available to our members and the civil service at government-prescribed rates. Most hospitals have fuel tanks.”
The letter was copied to the minister of Health and Child Care Obadiah Moyo and the Finance minister Mthuli Ncube.
This comes as prices of basic commodities continue to spiral out of control owing to an economic meltdown triggered by Ncube’s introduction of an unpopular tax regime.
Several retail outlets, including those owned by Cabinet ministers, have pegged prices in US dollars to preserve value.
ZHDA said government had assured its members in several communications since February this year that US$22 million had been allocated to procure drugs and equipment, and that in July supplies would improve.
Contrary to this pledge, patients are being made to buy medication from private pharmacies, which also have run out of stock and/or are demanding US dollars.
ZHDA said it was now common knowledge that hospitals were understaffed.
“This grievance was raised in February this year, and the establishment was said to being reviewed but to no avail. We implore the government to unfreeze critical posts and increase the current establishment and staffing levels.
If the personnel are not available, an overtime or locum allowance should be payable to those doing more work than they are warranted to do,” it said.
ZHDA also expressed concern that in some central hospitals, junior doctors are no longer working under supervision.
While it could be understandable that this could be a result of short-staffing, ZHDA said it is the association’s duty to protect patients at all costs and ensure quality of care. Daily News.