THE striking nurses, who were struck off the July payroll, have vowed not to return to work until the new Health minister Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga has addressed their demands.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo confirmed the position yesterday.
Dongo said being struck off the payroll had not rattled the majority of health workers who are demanding personal protective equipment (PPE) and salaries in United States dollars from their employer, before they could resume their duties.
“We are still on strike and we are on day 52. The majority of public hospitals are literally closed and patients are being referred to private health centres. Some patients are actually dying because they do not afford to pay the forex charges at the private hospitals, but as nurses we cannot call off the strike at this stage,” he said.
“Government has not done anything to meet our demands which are US dollar-pegged salaries or provision of adequate personal protective equipment. Actually the skeletal staff of nurses which is attending to emergency cases at the hospitals does not have adequate PPE.
“So if we wake up tomorrow and call off the strike, it will be a disaster in public hospitals with the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases among nurses. Government must just meet our demands, then we can call off the strike.”
He said all nurses on strike were removed from the government payroll last month.
“It’s true that all of us on strike have been struck off the government payroll. However, we are not going to give in to such intimidatory tactics and go back to work. What we are supposed to do at hospitals in fulfilment of our duties does not tally with what we will get at the end of the month in form of salary, so we better stay home until government comes to the negotiating table to iron out our grievances,” Dongo said.
At the beginning of the strike, government refused to pay the nurses in forex as per their demands, setting the stage for the impasse.
Chiwenga is yet to give direction on the way forward regarding the strike since his shock appointment last week. In 2018, the retired army chief fired all striking nurses and immediately replaced them with retired and trained-but-unemployed nurses, as a stop-gap measure to save lives. Government later reversed the decision.