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Byo hospitals turn to students as nurses down tools

A majority of nurses did not report for duty at Bulawayo’s public hospitals on Friday, signalling the start of their industrial action for better wages and health services.

The public hospitals’ administration, said the health institutions would have to cope with the available number of nurses, though the strike was going to push the provision of services over the limit.

Nurses, alongside other health workers Thursday informed the government that they were undervalued, incapacitated, as their low salaries were eroded by hyperinflation, exchange rate volatility and a three-tier pricing system.

As a result, nurses from the public hospitals, namely – Mpilo Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Ingutsheni Hospital embarked on protests, demanding salaries in US dollars and provision of personal protective equipment.

Nurses at Mpilo Hospital stage demonstration on Thursday

In an interview with CITE, UBH Clinical Director Dr Narcisius Dzvanga said the hospital had to make do with the available nurses.

“We have 119 nurses and out of that only 47 came. 72 nurses did not come but we will work with what is there. Tending to patients is not like selling mangoes or oranges where anyone can do so, it’s a professional skill so we cannot ask anyone from the streets to come. We will have to work with the numbers of nurses we have,” he emphasised.

Dr Dzvanga said if push came to shove, the hospital would have to discharge those patients who were not in danger, while roping in student nurses to fill the gap.

“Student nurses don’t go on strike and they were trained to provide back-up. We have about 180 student nurses, so we will not close the hospital because there is a strike but we will work with those willing to come to work,” he said.

Mpilo Hospital Acting Clinical Director, Dr Xolani Ndlovu said only 30 percent of the nurses reported for duty at the referral hospital.

“All our critical staff did come to work and are on duty aided by student nurses who are here as well,” he said.

Dr Ndlovu, could not, however, reveal the figures of nurses who did not report for duty and those that came to work.  

“I have not received authorisation to give out the figures to press as these are numbers that we communicate with to the head office in office (Ministry of Health and Child Care),” said the acting clinical director.
Meanwhile, Ingutsheni Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Leornard Mabhandi said the bulk of the nursing staff came to work.

“They just demonstrated yesterday (Thursday) and that was not a strike. 90 percent of staff came to work and only 10 percent did not,” he said.

Various health associations said these were unprecedented times because for the first time in all health workers had joined forces to strike, calling on the government to provide better salaries and safety nets.

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