Picture: 123RF/Sahul Hameed
Picture: 123RF/Sahul Hameed

Zimbabwe’s doctors have turned down a 60% salary increase offered by the government and pledged to press on with the industrial action that began a month ago.

The situation in the country’s hospitals is said to be dire with only emergency cases being attended to by military nurses and doctors.

The doctors, who earn a minimum of $100 a month, say their salaries have been eroded by Zimbabwe’s crippling inflation, which the IMF estimates at 300%.

At the weekend, Zimbabwe’s government gave the doctors an ultimatum to return to work on Monday or face unspecified disciplinary action after awarding the doctors an increment that would have seen the lowest paid junior doctor taking home about $150 a month.

But the doctors remain defiant. The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) union, which represents junior and middle-level doctors, said the government had resorted to intimidation instead of addressing their concerns.

‘Patients dying’

“Efforts to get the statistics of the current mortality at the hospitals were fruitless but it is clear that most patients are dying without being attended to,” ZHDA said.

The doctors called on the World Health Organisation to intervene and monitor the health crisis in Zimbabwe.

Health minister Obadiah  Moyo has acknowledged the crisis in Zimbabwe’s hospitals, saying most patients were not receiving treatment.

“Obviously the strike has caused problems for the sick people. We have had to combine wards and collapse wards and we are strictly serving those patients who are coming in a dire emergency,” he said.

On Monday, dozens of doctors demonstrated at the country’s main Parirenyatwa Hospital in the capital, Harare. They said that their salaries did not even cover their transport costs to work.

At the weekend the price of diesel and petrol went up by about 30%. The cost of most basic goods also jumped last week.

Zimbabwe is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade and a document by the country’s ministry of finance has predicted that the economy is projected to contract by up to 6%in 2019 due to a drought that hit farming output and electricity generation.

The country is also plagued by corruption and inconsistency in implementation of economic policies.