By Dr Brighton Chireka

So all nurses that are on strike are now fired “in the interest of patients”.

Is VP Chiwenga clear about the nurses he has just fired? How many midwives, ICU nurses, nurse anaesthetists, diabetic nurses to just mention a few. My point is that nurses are not just nurses. They are professionals who are not easily replaceable. We do not have these specialised nurses roaming the streets so firing the ones we have shows that we are either cruel or out of touch with reality or we are utter incompetent leaders.

Since some in the government are used to giving commands and ultimatums can they tell us when they gave the nurses the ultimatum to return to work? How can you fire them without giving them an ultimatum?

So when is the ministry of health going to compile a full list of nurses that participated in the strike? When are they going to send the dismissal letters? When are they going to advertise for the jobs and carry out the interviews? How many nurses have no jobs and how many nurses went on strike? My simple calculations tells me that the number of unemployed nurses is very low as compared to the number that is already employed.

Are they going to re-employ these “fired nurses” if they re-apply to get their jobs back? How long is this process going to take? Is it in the interest of patients?

We want our health workers to be committed to care that is safe, effective, patient-centred, timely, efficient and equitable. Nurses as the largest group of health care professionals in Zimbabwe, are critical in the delivery of a quality health care across our country.

We need to pay them the pay they deserve so they can do their best possible job for their patients. People forget that our health system is collapsed so I support nurses for taking a stand now to change the status quo so that, ultimately, patient care and working conditions and staffing improve. In the long run, more patients will get better care.  A care that is safe, effective and gives a positive experience to the user.

Currently how can the care be safe when we have underfunding and understaffing. How can that care be safe when we have “replacement nurses“hired in a hurry? These new nurses will not have the right skills, proper induction, some of them their skills are out of date and will have little time to get to know the patients.

Let us be honest with ourselves. The nursing profession is central to the heart of healthcare. Without them and everything they do, healthcare simply could not function.

To now think we can just fire them is not just an insult – it’s an outrage! It’s overlooking all they do.

Nurses do not just roam in the street so that we can hire and fire them willy-nilly. To us patients, nurses are not just nurses. They’re advocates for our wellbeing. They’re counsellors when we need someone to listen to us. They’re educators when we need to learn. They’re a friend when we just need someone in our corner. There’s no denying it – nurses truly are the heart of our healthcare.

Our government needs to also listen to us who are outside. Being outside the system helps us see the system in a way that insiders can’t see.

VP Chiwenga has come up with a perfect solution for the army but it does not solve the problem we have in our health system.

I like the following quote and it is true of our current situation.

“The manager who comes up with the right solution to the wrong problem is more dangerous than the manager who comes up with the wrong solution to the right problem.”

This government not surprisingly is keen on finding solutions but does not take time to define the problem. Here VP Chiwenga is trying to solve the effects of underfunding of the health system by the government and not the cause of it.

We do not silence the symptom but listen to it and learn. The strike is not the problem. Focusing on the symptom deviates our attention from solving the root problem. Sadly attacking symptoms is a “Cultural Thing” in our government. We are seeing a leadership that is putting too much pressure on finding quick fixes. This leadership is falling in love with “solutions” too easily even if it’s not solving the problem at hand. We are also seeing an arrogance and know-it-all mindset. Sadly in all this patients pay the price and the cost is atrocious.

It takes humility and compassionate leadership to admit that a mistake was made in prematurely firing our nurses. They can go back to the negotiation table and retain our skilled nurses.



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