NURSES want Higher Life Foundation to intervene with salary packages as done with the doctors from juniors to consultants which saw them back at work.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Fielding questions from parliamentarians on Monday, Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo said this disparity where nurses got nothing while doctors were given a golden handshake by Strive Masiyiwa’s humanitarian foundation.
Mr Dongo said this reacting to the Senior Doctors who earlier in the morning had complained that flexible working hours and the handover-takeover period taken left patients unattended.
“We commend the HLF for coming to the rescue of the situation but in that vein the government through the health and finance ministries should now cover that gap or talk to Masiyiwa’s on behalf of HigherLife Foundation to also extend that gesture to nurses so we can work together,” he said.
On the Higher Life Foundation arrangement, consultants get ZW$10 000, ZW$5000 for junior doctors, and ZW$7 500 for the seniors, monthly.
“This is not enough. I didn’t say it’s enough or didn’t say the money should be taken away from them. No. We are imploring to government to say a health delivery system is like a body. There is no way that you can work effectively without the other part. We complement each other.
“So when the doctors were on strike, it seems as if going on strike pays more than those who were at work. Nurses were at work suffering without resources. Those who were abandoning patients, going on strike they then come now with an offer they have been given by somebody and say all the nurses come back to work five days a week. Munhu iyeye arikutaura ane ZW$10 000 irikudziya pahomwe umwe haana chaakapihwa.
“That was my point. Not to say money should be taken, we are saying government should come in now and cover the gap. We are working together, cover the gap that has been created. This ZW$10 000 for example, you see these doctors are within grades.
“We have got nurses who are in E grades where the doctors are. Those senior nurses supervise these doctors in terms of administrative work at hospitals. But they are now finding themselves having nothing but this one who abandoned patients is smiling,” said Mr Dongo.
He also said it was unfair of senior doctors to lobby for the removal of flexihours.
“I was just speaking to the issue on the senior doctors petition that nurses should not have flexible hours. I was justifying why nurses are doing flexible hours. These will not take nurses out of incapacitation neither will they bring food to their tables. Nurses remain incapacitated. In fact nurses remain in poverty inasmuch as they are doing their flexible hours.
“What we were not in agreement was for the doctors to come to the Parliament and advocate for the removal of flexible hours. The only removal of the flexible hours is when government is going to provide a salary on the interbank market rate or if they are talking of a gap of nurse-patient care which is deteriorating, there is need to employ more nurses in the street,” he said.
He also said flexible working hours system is internationally practised.
“Its not a new phenomenon. Go to Ireland today, they are doing three days a week. They are called long working hours. You work 12 hours today, and another 12 and another 12 giving you 36 hours for the week which is within the international labour organisation statutes.
“And the issue of handover, takeover which is being talked about is just purely administrative at any given institution. I said I come from Chitungwiza to Town, then Harare Hospital where Im expected to start at 7 o’clock. As nurses we need about 15 to 30 minutes or an hour to give each other handover takeover in the ward.
“It’s just administrative that the Zupco or Vaya arranged should leave at 8 oclock unlike when it arrives, one just gets in. we have hospitals doing handover takeover as we speak. Its just administrative. It doesn’t need any n’angas or anyone to address that. Its purely administrative to say all the nurses on night duty will knock off at 7.30 after giving handover takeover which is a straight forward issue to take away the flexi-hours,” said Mr Dongo.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo whomthe doctors wanted to remove the flexihours said the issue was discussed and agreed on during the collective bargaining agreement meetings. The Minister said reports being received on the doctors’ working conduct was not good.
“We have reports of junior doctors not being found at work for hours when sought for critical conditions in patients. We also have reports of senior doctors coming only for one week in every six weeks. During that week when they are supposed to be reporting to work, they only come for two to three days.
“Nevertheless, flexi-hours are a result of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) where workers including the doctors were represented. Perhaps if the doctors attended the CBA meetings, they would understand the other workers’ feelings and recognise the ministry of health honours all its agreements with all levels of employees.
“Ministry of health has determined government policy as announced by the minister of finance and economic development for biometric recording at the workplace must be instituted at all government hospitals immediately. This will give government the opportunity to pay its workers in accordance to performance and attendance. This is a measure to ensure continuous availability of services to our patients,” he said.