Senior doctors say they will stand with their juniors, after the Health Services Board (HSB) sent out suspension letters targeting hundreds of striking doctors.
A government medical officer close to developments told Kukurigo they had resolved to join the strike in solidarity with the now-suspended junior doctors.
“We had an informal caucus and we are of the view that the suspension or dismissal of junior doctors is a war on us all and it will set a dangerous precedent if unchallenged,” she said in a series of email exchanges edited for this article.
“We are determined to defend the juniors against this bullying and victimisation because they are not asking for Landcruiser’s like Parliament but for government to wake up and take the crisis in our hospitals seriously. There is widespread support from registrars, hospital medical officers and government medical officers to join hands in solidarity. We are now defending the profession for government to realise that we are doctors not a play thing for politicians.”
An intervention by senior doctors at district, provincial and central hospital level would collapse the health system.
Hospitals are already failing to cope with patients waiting unattended (Bulawayo picture above) while available doctors battle to manage critical patients.
An image sent to Kukurigo (above) shows doctors improvising an intravenous fluid bag as a urine drainage bag. The shortage of drugs and medical consumables is at the centre of the strike with doctors accusing government of spending on vehicles and perks for politicians at the expense of the healthcare system.
Sympathetic government medical officers in Masvingo this morning sent a letter to the Provincial Medical Director warning they would join the strike if grievances expressed by junior doctors were no resolved.
“We, the GMOs in Masvingo Province have been following the situation with regards to the currently ongoing strike by doctors, with the hope that urgent due attention would be given, and grievances attended to without delay,” the letter reads.
“We would like to categorically state our position, which is that we are in full support of our colleagues across the country. Should concerns that were raised and communicated to the employer through ZHDA representatives not receive urgent attention and be satisfactorily, we will have no choice but to withdraw our services.”
HSB yesterday sent out suspension letters to junior doctors that began industrial action on December 1.
“This letter serves to advise you that, in terms of section 6 (1) of the Labour … Regulations Statutory Instrument 15 of 2006, you are suspended from duty for a period of 14 days from the date on which this notice is served on you,” read letters sent to hundreds of doctors yesterday.
A doctor at Mpilo hospital who requested anonymity for fear of victimisation told Kukurigo the suspension letters had deepened their resolve.
“Government thinks they can do to us what they did to nurses when (Vice President) Chiwenga fired them and forced them to re-apply for their jobs. By refusing to pay us our salaries and going on to suspend us they have shown us their true colours and made us more determined to resolve this once and for all, we cannot be striking every few months,” he said.
Criticism of government has been uncharacteristically charged with doctors taking to social media platforms to urge on their colleagues.
Dr Edgar Munatsi, a former Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president currently stationed at Chitungwiza Central Hospital, attacked HSB for failing to represent the interests of doctors.
“HSB was primarily formed to advance the interests of health workers but they have been doing the opposite, infringing the rights of workers. It is high time it is disbanded. They will be drinking coffee in their fancy offices while we have to break bad news to relatives every day. Resuscitation rooms have no emergency drugs, no drips,” he wrote on his Twitter account Monday morning.