Picture: 123RF/SAMSONOVS
Picture: 123RF/SAMSONOVS

Harare — Zimbabwe’s main state hospitals turned away many patients and only attended to emergency cases on Wednesday as a strike by doctors escalated.

The strike, which aims to put pressure on the government to address chronic drugs shortages and increase salaries, has spread since starting two weeks ago among junior doctors.

"We will only return to work when all issues raised have been fully resolved," the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said in a statement. "We note with concern the closure of almost all central hospitals, children’s units, provincial hospitals and cessation of emergency life-saving procedures throughout the country."

On Wednesday, senior doctors joined the strike, stoking fears of loss of lives.

Labour unrest could pose a test for President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came to power in November after the fall of Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa has vowed to revive the economy and boost investment, after public-sector strikes were a regular feature of Mugabe’s rule due to delayed payment of salaries.

"My brother had an appointment for a review for his broken arm, but the doctors are only attending to critical cases," Sicelo Phahlane, said leaving Mpilo, the main state hospital in the second city of Bulawayo. "This new government must address the doctors’ grievances urgently to save lives and show it has a different approach to issues from the previous one."

A doctor at Mpilo, asking not to be named, said: "We are not going back to work until the authorities address us."