Nurses embark on countrywide strike

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<strong>HARARE</strong> - In a move that is set to bring the public health sector to a standstill,  thousands of nurses across the country will begin their strike today after they failed to reach an agreement with the government on their demands for a pay hike and improved working conditions.</p>

At the same time, increasingly restless teachers have also put President  Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on notice if it does not improve their pay and other working conditions by the time schools open for the second term next month, the Daily News can report.

The nurses strike follows an equally crippling industrial action by public sector doctors last month.

“Nurses play a pivotal role in the health delivery system of Zimbabwe. They provide services to the community 24/7, with minimum resources and below market packages.

“Regardless of this, the government has seen it fit to ignore them by not attending to issues which enhance their functionality and motivation,” the  Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) said in a letter addressed to Health minister David Parirenyatwa.

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The letter was also copied to the  Health Services Board chairperson Lovemore Mbengeranwa, provincial  medical directors, rural councils and the  chief executive officers of the country’s major referral centres —  Mpilo Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospital, Ingutsheni Central  Hospital, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Harare Central Hospital.

“A collective bargaining agreement was signed for on 31/03/18, paving the way for the payment of the following health specific allowances: stand-by allowances and night duty allowances (non-claimable) and post  basic allowances … but these have not been paid as per standing  agreement.

“Regardless of the fact that the allowances fell short of the nurses’ expectations, the same Collective Bargaining Agreement  (CBA) was paid for other cadres, but most regarding nurses were not honoured without any official explanation to what caused the  discrepancy. This is a clear breach of contract.

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“Nurses will only return to work if the outstanding payments reflect in their accounts. The above, and multitude of other issues, have left nurses with no option but to resort to industrial action on 16/04/2018,” Zina said in its letter.
Among other things, the nurses are also demanding uniform allowances and nurse managers’ allowances.

The nurses had appeared appeased by the March 30, 2018 collective  bargaining agreement, which among other things had pushed for improved allowances for standby nurses stationed at rural health centres, as well as the introduction of new allowances  to nursing staff who acquire  approved qualifications.

There was also an introduction of an allowance to nurse managers on a non-claimable rate of $350 to $450 per month.

The doctors who embarked on a crippling month-long strike recently ultimately had their pay and allowances reviewed upwards.

To date, the new dispensation has not been able to end the myriad problem  affecting the public health institutions, despite determined efforts to do so.

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Apart from having to replace old equipment, most State hospitals and public pharmacies are struggling to stock drugs due to  poor planning and failure to access foreign currency from the Reserve  Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

As a result, thousands of newly-born babies recently faced significant health risks after the Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which prevents infants from contracting  tuberculosis (TB), was temporarily in short supply.

Newly-born babies are vaccinated with BCG to prevent them from contracting TB, which is listed among the top six infant killers in the country.

In 2016, major referral hospitals also had to suspend many services as a result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers — glaringly exposing how much things had fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.

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