The cash-strapped government is struggling to bring back to work junior doctors whose industrial action has entered the third month with the medical practitioners still digging in.
Junior doctors downed tools on September 3 citing among other things poor remuneration and conditions of service as well as incapacitation.
Repeated pleas by the President Mnangagwa administration for doctors to return to work have been ignored resulting in former firing 448 of them.
The daring doctors recently turned down a ZW$5 000 monthly offer, for them to return to work, by Econet Wireless founder, Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, through their Higher Life Foundation (HLF).
Last Thursday, Catholic bishops, in a meeting with the presidium at State House, tried to intervene by asking for a 48-hour moratorium for doctors to return to their work stations without being asked any questions.
That, however, could not yield positive outcome as only 46 out of the 448 had returned to work at the expiry of the grace period.
Health Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo, in a post-cabinet briefing Tuesday, said the 402 doctors who ignored the government moratorium remained fired and there would be no further extension to the grace period.
He, however, said the government remained committed to dialogue with the doctors, provided they showed commitment by reporting for duty.
“We are continuously availing the basic medicine and other equipment they need for them to effectively discharge their duties,” said Moyo.
“Tenders for surgical equipment and medicine were floated and we are in the process of acquiring the equipment.”
“We are also working on the issue of their transport. Fuel will also be availed to them as there are storage facilities at most central hospitals. A fuel budget is already being worked on.”
He further said the government was in the process of rolling out accommodation facilities for the doctors.
“There will be three and four-storey blocks of flats constructed at all referral hospitals across the country,” promised Moyo.
“As a short term measure, we have identified flats that will be renovated and equipped with Wi-Fi and other social amenities like gyms.”
However, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) vice president, Brian Mbanje, told CITE they were not becoming difficult but wanted the government to address their concerns before they could return to work.
“We want our salaries to be indexed at the interbank rate because we do not want to go back to strike to say what you had given us has been eroded again,” he said.
Mbanje said the few doctors that returned to work did so because they feared victimisation after the expiry of the government moratorium.
He said they would continue to fight until their concerns were addressed before they could return to work.
“What we are fighting for is more than what the government is promising to offer; so we are fighting for something better,” he added.
Meanwhile, the doctors marched Wednesday and presented their petition to Parliament.