Tendai Mukandi/Reagan Mashavave
STRIKING junior doctors have appealed to President Robert Mugabe to consider removing Health and Child Welfare minister David Parirenyatw
a in his next cabinet reshuffle.
The doctors blame the minister for the stalemate in their work boycott that has paralysed major health institutions, accusing him of being too autocratic and overbearing in his approach to important issues.
In an open letter to President Mugabe, the doctors pleaded with him to consider their grievances when he reshuffles the cabinet.
“We believe this issue is now beyond the comprehension of your minister who should be trembling now, what with the impending cabinet reshuffle. We wait with anticipation for the fate of this man, who has let you down in all ways,” says the letter.
“Your Minister of Health and Child Welfare has been your biggest let-down. As one appointed to such a critical ministry, we would expect him to be astute, quick-witted, resourceful and keen, all traits of which are missing from the honourable minister,” the letter says.
“His autocratic and overbearing approach to important issues is immensely disconcerting. In his many years as minister he has failed to address the issue of brain drain especially of the doctors.”
The doctors say the shortage of doctors will continue to haunt the country if their current “paltry” salaries are not revised.
“Your Excellency, your doctors are getting a paltry salary of $56 million. Your doctors are getting a vehicle loan of $50 million, a figure that would incense even the most neutral of observers,” the letter says. The doctors want their salaries raised to at least $250 million.
It adds: “Right next door, in our neighbouring region, they are giving their doctors salaries of R20 000, decent vehicles, numerous allowances and boundless opportunities for further personal and career development. These startling revelations, your honour, then make it obvious why your sons and daughters are deserting their own country.”
The doctors blame the minister and his deputy Muguti for issuing malicious and false information to the public and calling them students despite all their work.
“Instead of striving to improve remuneration he perpetually inflames and angers the well-meaning doctors by labelling them students. Surely your honour, it would be a first in the world for a health system to be run by students.”
The striking doctors say they have lost faith in deputy minister Edwin Muguti and Health secretary, Edward Mabhiza.
“The permanent secretary Dr ET Mabhiza has not been very helpful, Your Excellency. He, like his minister, has dismally failed to address critical issues affecting the health delivery system in Zimbabwe. He still thinks he is running a province and yet he takes claim to a very important seat in the equation of health delivery system.”
The doctors said they would not return to work until their demand for better salaries and improved working conditions were met.
Hospital Doctors Association president Dr Kudakwashe Nyamutukwa confirmed the strike was still on.
“We will only go back to work once our demands are met and we are prepared even to get fired if our demands are not met,” Nyamutukwa said.
The doctors are also demanding an increase in their car loan allowances to a level that makes it possible for them to buy a car.
“Honestly you cannot have a car loan that can’t buy a car. We want a car loan that can buy a car not these meagre allowances,” said one doctor.
The junior doctors currently number about 270 and are employed at the main referral hospitals, that is Harare Central, Parirenyatwa and United Bulawayo Hospitals.
A terse notice at Parirenyatwa Hospital’s casualty department reads: “All junior doctors are on strike, only dire emergencies are being attended to.”
Patients were being treated in the outpatients department where there was a long queue while others could be seen lying on lawns in the hospital yard.