Health workers threaten mass resignation over bill

Ruth Labode

By Silisiwe Mabika

HEALTH practitioners have rejected the Health Services Bill which they say aims to punish them for exercising their labor rights and have threatened mass resignations if it passes.

At a public hearing on the bill conducted in Bulawayo by the Parliamentary Health and Child Care Portfolio Committee last Friday, medical staff rejected the bill as despotic.

The committee is chaired by Ruth Labode.

Attendees at the public hearing included mostly health workers, who said the proposed law would hasten their move to greener pastures.

A gynecologist, who identified himself only as Dube, expressed concern about the working conditions proposed by the bill and called on parliament to commit health workers to the way forward.

“I don’t know what this amendment aims for, has the dialogue failed? The government must consult the employees and negotiate a good settlement. This amendment has not been carefully made as it seeks to propagate the opinions of one side over those of all. It is clear that the government is pursuing its own agenda, so we have no choice but to quit our jobs, stay at home, go to the farm or hustle like everyone else,” said Dub.

Dube said he was skeptical of the so-called public consultation process because it appeared a decision had already been made on the matter, with hearings being used to approve the process.

Anaesthesiologist Ngqabutho Dube pointed out that there was a mass exodus of health workers due to the government’s reluctance to address urgent issues.

“The employer wants to criminalize and move away from listening to our grievances and when the dialogue is closed the professionals will leave in silence. We have seen a massive exodus of medical professionals to the UK because the employer refuses to issue certificates of good standing to medical professionals,” he said.

“Hospitals are empty, honestly we’d rather sell tomatoes than work in scary conditions. The bill aims to restrict the working rights of medical practitioners.

The president of the Zimbabwe Medical Association, Francis Chiwora, said the bill was oppressive for doctors, citing a clause which states that “all professional action is limited to seventy-two hours in any 14-day period. Any member who takes or organizes industrial action is liable to prosecution with a potential penalty of three years in prison or a level 10 fine which is currently $70,000”.

This, according to Chiwora, gives the government a stranglehold on health services while depriving workers of their freedom at the same time.

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