Senior medics drop tools as government rejects ‘senseless’ demands to pay salaries in US dollars
By Robert Tapfumaneyi
Members of the ZIMBABWE Senior Hospital Doctors (ZSHDA) slaughtered tools on Thursday after the acting secretary of the Ministry of Health said it would be foolish for the government to pay their salaries in foreign currency.
Union action plunged the entire public health sector into a black hole as nurses and young doctors were already on strike to demand better wages and better working conditions.
The work stoppage of public health workers also comes when Covid-19 infections and associated deaths in Zimbabwe have risen sharply over the past two weeks without any tangible measures being put in place by the government. to flatten the curve.
On Monday this week, seven babies from eight deliveries at Harare Central Hospital were stillborn after emergency treatment was delayed due to staffing issues.
The deaths were reported to be just “the tip of the iceberg”.
Zimbabwe’s essential health workers demand the payment of salaries in US dollars, insisting that salaries in Zimbabwean dollars were losing value due to the steadily rising prices of goods and services in the country.
However, Acting Health Secretary Gibson Mhlanga, in response to requests from doctors, chose to give doctors a curvy ideological lecture on why the government cannot pay salaries in foreign currency.
“Full US dollarization of the economy is a proven and failed concept,” Mhlanga wrote.
“In February 2018, the country ran out of US dollars, with citizens sleeping in banks to withdraw their deposits to no avail.
“Foreigners have also come down to Zimbabwe in search of readily available US dollars, in addition to locals who are also externalizing their US dollar reserves.
“There is absolutely nothing to prevent this from happening again. Doing the same thing over and over again while waiting for a different outcome is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.
Mhlanga continued; “We need to be innovative and explore other ways to solve these challenges. The US dollar is a US currency printed by the Federal Reserve and is not printed for free to other countries.
“Other countries can only access the USD through international trade in goods and services. The USD reserves generated by the Zimbabwean economy are not sufficient to support import obligations such as fuel, food due to droughts and natural disasters, electric power following droughts leading to reduced production , drugs and medical products aggravated by Covid-19, industrial and agricultural machinery to name a few.
“To divert the limited US forex towards the payment of wages is suicidal for the economy and the provision of social services. Printing the ZWL $ without considering economic fundamentals is inflationary, and Zimbabweans are experiencing the horrors of a second wave of hyperinflation. “
The incapacitated senior doctors had given the government a 14-day ultimatum to respond to their grievances or they would withdraw their services. The ultimatum period expired on Tuesday.
In response to Mhlanga’s rant, ZSHDA said it was disappointed.
“We were hopeful that the government would attempt to meet the demand from physicians that we believe is valid and necessary to enable reasonable service delivery.
“We’re very disappointed that all we’ve had is really an explanation of how we got to where we are and how it’s going to stay the same.
“As the status quo will persist, we regret to inform you that our members will now proceed with the shutdown until it is safe and fair to return to our posts. We hope you will consider your position for the benefit of our patients and your staff, ”said the senior physicians.