The ongoing strike by nurses over on-call and night duty allowances in Harare has crippled service delivery at referral health institutions.
This has forced city health authorities to issue an order barring hospitals and clinics from sending patients to referral institutions until further notice.
In an internal memorandum dated April 30 2015, the Harare Central Hospital clinical director’s office advised its switchboard to communicate with all referring institutions about the latest development.
“Please tell all district and other referring hospitals and institutions including city clinics that Harare Hospital is closed to all referrals due to ongoing strike by nursing staff. The hospitals will be informed when the institution returns to normal,” reads the memo.
Doctors interviewed at Chitungwiza Central Hospital said the absence of nurses at night was complicating matters.
A doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was difficult to work with skeleton staff.
“The situation is unbearable. It puts pressure on a few cadres at work and increases the turnaround time for patients to be attended to,” he said.
“We hope that the nurses association and the employer will soon reach an agreement for normalcy to return to health institutions,” he said.
Patients who fail to access services in public health institutions end up turning to private doctors whose costs are beyond the reach of many.
Nurses stopped reporting for night duty on Monday last week demanding an upward review of night al- lowances.