President Emmerson Mnangagwa has signed into law the Health Services Amendment Bill which among other things, makes it illegal for government health workers to embark on industrial action lasting more than three days.
Over the years, healthcare workers have embarked on prolonged strikes citing poor working conditions and low wages, a situation that left the already burdened health system in dire state.
The Health Service Amendment Act stipulates that during job action, government health workers must continue to provide emergency services.
“Notwithstanding anything in the Labour Act, the Health Service shall be deemed as an essential service referred to in section 65(3) of the Constitution. No collective job action, whether lawful or unlawful, shall continue for an uninterrupted period of 72 hours or for more than 72 hours in any given 14-day period and notice of any collective job action must be given in writing 48 hours prior to the commencement of such collective job action,” reads part of the Act
Under the Act, the old Health Services Board (HSB) was upgraded to a full commission, that is, the Health Services Commission (HSC) which set health workers’ conditions of service.
Stakeholders have however, dismissed the Act saying it does not address challenges that are being faced in the health sector.
Others were of the opinion that the Act is welcome as it protects patients from unjust job actions.