JUNIOR doctors at public hospitals yesterday stepped up their strike for better working conditions and remuneration, forcing some major hospitals to close down key departments and discharge “stable” patients.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE/VANESSA GONYE/KENNETH NYANGANI/STEPHEN CHADENGA
Some senior doctors have also joined in the industrial action, which started on December 1.
The United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH) resorted to drastic measures, which included shutting down their outpatients department and releasing patients considered safe on treatment as outpatients.
In a notice to heads of departments and all wards, consultant physician Narcisious Dzvanga, who is also the director of clinical services at the hospital, said the strike had forced them to close down some departments.
“Continue with emergency operations only,” he said in a notice to hospital personnel.
“Management appreciates the burden on the middle level staff and the consultants as well as the need for continued care for the critically ill patients.”
At Harare Central Hospital, only nine out of 100 junior doctors turned up for work, while the rest stayed away in solidarity with their striking counterparts.
Harare Central Hospital chief executive Nyasha Masuka said some senior members of staff had stepped in to cover the gap.
“Our senior staff members are now taking over the duties and responsibilities of the junior doctors,” he said.
The situation was also similar at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, with the few senior doctors taking over most of the work as more junior doctors stayed away.
A staff member said the situation was now grave and marathon meetings were being held to come up with a speedy solution.
“They are trying to figure out how to handle this potentially crippling situation,” she said.
Doctors in Mutare also joined the nationwide strike.
When NewsDay visited Mutare Provincial Hospital yesterday morning, some junior doctors were gathered at the car park, but were not working.
Nurses at the major referral centre in Manicaland, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were overwhelmed.
“Doctors are now on strike, so we are struggling to do our jobs and we are overwhelmed. This issue must be addressed as soon as possible,” a nurse told NewsDay.
Desperate patients were unattended to at the hospital.
Manicaland provincial medical director Patron Mafaune was locked in a series of meetings and did not pick up calls.
It was a similar situation at Sakubva District Hospital.
However, doctors in the Midlands province have not yet joined the strike.
Commenting on the situation in the province, provincial medical director Simon Nyadundu said: “Doctors have reported for duty in all parts of the province.”
Health minister Obadiah Moyo was said to be in a meeting, while Health ministry secretary Gerald Gwinji was unreachable for comment.
The doctors are demanding better working conditions, with basic medicines and equipment.
They also want their salaries paid in United States dollars and on call allowances reviewed to US$10.
In March this year, the doctors went on strike over similar grievances.