By Staff Reporter
In a heartfelt and emotional letter addressed to the Health Services Commission (HSC), nurses have expressed their anguish and frustration at the dire conditions in which they are forced to work.
In a letter, dated May 24 to the acting secretary-general of the HSC, Angelbert Mbengwa, Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) president Enock Dongo highlighted the nurses’ numerous attempts to engage with their employer all of which have fallen on deaf ears.
“Firstly, it is a matter of great regret that precedent is seemingly showing that the plight of nurses is not an issue of concern to the employer. The Health Service Bipartite Negotiating Panel, which is supposed to be the forum in which issues are discussed has been deliberately made useless as it has not met in the past two years despite our persistent request for it to sit and discuss issues,” Dongo said
The nurses emphasized the alarming decline in their morale, attributing it to the appalling working conditions that not only jeopardize patient safety but also put their own well-being at risk.
“Even our capacity to withstand pain has been pushed to the extreme because on a daily basis we see patients dying simply because basic medication and equipment that could potentially save their lives are not in stock at our hospitals,” Dongo added.
In an attempt to address the escalating issue, the Zimbabwean government amended the Health Services Act in January, forbidding public healthcare workers from striking for more than 72 hours.
Consequences for healthcare workers who violate this law include disciplinary action, while organizers of such strikes can face imprisonment of up to six months, or both. The government has previously resorted to firing health workers who engage in strike action.
Dongo, however, argued that threats and punitive measures were not the solution. Instead, he urged the employers to listen attentively and seriously consider the nurses’ plight.
He stressed that refusing to engage in dialogue, issuing arrest threats, and obstructing employment opportunities in other jurisdictions were counterproductive.
Dongo requested an urgent meeting with the Health Services Commission and other relevant stakeholders within the next 14 days to find viable solutions for the betterment of the healthcare sector.