The government has started rehiring nurses below the age of 70 to take up posts left by fired nurses who were on strike recently.
Speaking to the ZBC News in Harare today, the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa said the sacking of striking nurses has created a shortage of nurses in government’s health institutions, adding that the rehiring process presents an opportunity for all trained nurses to apply.
He also said those who were fired can also apply as new employees, adding that they can approach nearest central hospital, provincial hospital and provincial medical health directorate immediately.
Dr Parirenyatwa thanked some senior nurses who did not go on strike for their commitment to duty.
The Health Service Board Vice Chairperson, Dr Paulinos Sikosana said the position taken by striking nurses, which had reached the presidium, led the government decision to fire them despite having committed to pay them $17 million.
Yesterday, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who supervises the social services cluster in government, said against the background of a series of meetings involving government, the Health Services Board and the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, the continued strike was regrettable.
"What makes the whole action both deplorable and reprehensible is the fact that, as agreed yesterday [Monday], government today released and transferred a sum of US$17,114,446 into the account of the ministry of health and child care for on-payment of the striking nurses," he said.
Chiwenga said government regarded the continued strike by nurses as a "lack of remorse" and "politically-motivated".
"Accordingly, government has decided, in the interest of patients and of saving lives, to discharge all the striking nurses with immediate effect," he said.
The Health Services Board (HSB) has been instructed to speedily employ jobless trained nurses. The HSB has also been directed to recall retired nurses.
"Further, government has now instructed the Health Services Board to speedily engage, as appropriate, all unemployed but trained nurses in the country. It has also authorised the board to recall retired nursing staff into the service."
Chiwenga said funds that had been released to meet demands of the striking nurses would now be redirected and allocated towards meeting the cost of effecting "this new directive and arrangement with immediate effect".
The nurses’ strike comes after government gave in to doctors’ demands and hiked their salaries and allowances following a month-long strike that had crippled the health sector.
The doctors received an upward review of on-call allowances, noting that members work round the clock for up to 360 continuous hours.
Junior doctors’ on-call allowances were reviewed from the current $1.50 per hour to $7.50 per hour for 160 hours as a flat fee of $1,200 per month.