HEALTH personnel working on the Covid-19 frontline this week downed tools in protest against government’s disregard of their general welfare.The health staff said they have not received any allowances since the beginning of the outbreak. Medics from the army have been called in at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare to replace the nurses who refused to attend to patients until their issues have been addressed.
This week, the nurses wrote to the City of Harare’s director of health Services, Prosper Chonzi, stating they were disappointed that they were being expected to work in a highly infectious environment without any monetary incentives. The nurses are only being paid monthly salaries, ranging between ZW$1 000 and ZW$2 000, which they say are not enough to sustain them.
The Zimbabwe Independent has established that several nurses at the infectious diseases hospital are now eyeing better opportunities, especially at the private Covid-19 facilities that are being established in the capital.
“We, the frontline Covid-19 team, are incapacitated. We are now unable to perform our duties because we are hungry and we cannot fend for our families. We have been working since January on the frontline of this pandemic, but up to today, the 20th of April, we have not received any salary increment and no allowance,” the Wilkins nurses said in one of the letters under the subject matter: “Incapacitation of frontline workers”.
“Our salaries range from ZW$1 000 to ZW$2 000. This has not been enough to sustain even coming to work, but we have been sacrificing to the extent of using our resources to come to work. However, we have exhausted all our resources. We are therefore appealing for your urgent attention to our plea for allowances whilst we are at home waiting for your response within 24 hours.”
As of yesterday, the nurses were not attending to patients, as their concerns had not yet been addressed.
They further demanded a written document stating that they would receive risk allowances as well as life insurance in United States dollars.
One of the health personnel at the institution told the Independent: “We have not been given anything since the outbreak started, yet we have been caring for positive patients at the hospital. We could have been exposed because of the inadequate PPE (personal protective equipment), but nothing has come our way and we understand that nurses at government institutions were given allowances, yet we are the ones on the frontline.”
The remaining nurses have been overworked due to shortages of staff worsened by the resignation of other personnel from the hospital.
Chonzi earlier this month told the Independent city authorities, who run the infectious diseases hospital, were awaiting staff to be seconded to Wilkins Hospital and Beatrice Infectious Diseases Hospital from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, to boost the country’s Covid-19 response.
He could not be reached for comment on the nurses’ strike.