GOVERNMENT has paid health workers on the Covid-19 frontline paltry allowances of just ZW$700 (US$28) for the work they did since the beginning of the pandemic in Zimbabwe about two months ago.
The frontline workers have been exposed to coronavirus infection as they came into contact with patients without adequate protective clothing in some cases.
Nurses at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare, where the country’s two out of the four Covid-19 fatalities have been recorded, were working with limited protective clothing, until donations made by development partners and private businesses and individuals were availed last week.
The health workers at the infectious diseases hospital downed stethoscopes for five days a fortnight ago. They resumed work after a meeting with City of Harare director of health Prosper Chonzi who promised them that allowances would be deposited into their bank accounts.
“We received the money two days later and we got ZW$700 plus our salary which was ZW$3 000,” one of the nurses told the Zimbabwe Independent this week.
“We are living in fear and anxiety. We took care of the late patients and have come into contact with other positive patients.
“These times are really difficult, we have worked even during outbreaks of other diseases such cholera, but this time it is difficult because we are not receiving monetary support. Previously, we would get US$30 per day.”
During the strike, army medics replaced the nurses.The strike followed the resignation of nurses at the institution who were frustrated with the lack of resources and allowances, leaving the remaining staff overworked.
Before the strike, the nurses wrote to Chonzi, expressing disappointment over the working environment and lack of a monetary incentive.The Independent understands that several nurses at the infectious diseases hospital are eying better opportunities, especially at 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.
“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.”
They further said they wanted a written document stating that they would get payment of risk allowances as well as life insurance in United States dollars.
“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,” a health professional at the institution said.