Zimbabwe AIDS Network (ZAN) has expressed concern over health workers’ salaries which they said have since lost ‘purchasing power’ if the face of the current economic situation which has seen prices of basic commodities skyrocketing while the RTGs continue to lose value.
ZAN acknowledges that like any other civil servants, health workers got ‘cushion allowances’ but these allowances fall short of expected basic salary as doctors are still living below the poverty datum line of USD$1.25 per day. As such, it is most likely to experience industrial actions such as strikes, go-slow and stay-away.
In an interview with Mpilo Central Hospital Medical Officer, Dr Gift Risinamhodzi who works in a children’s hospital said the working environment is now unbearable.
“Since the last time our salaries were adjusted bread has gone up from $1.40 to $8.50, petrol has gone up from $ 1.35 to $9.47, rentals have gone up five times, electricity has gone up four times, toll gates have gone up five times, rice has gone up 10 times. Everything we need has gone up yet the salary has remained static,” lamented Dr Risinamhodzi.
He added, “The top officials are aware of this yet they remain resolute in doing absolutely nothing. They want people to strike first. They want to see strikes occurring first so they can react. This problem affects all civil servants. Do u expect to get better when your doctor’s basic salary is less than US$40? Do you expect your children to learn anything in school when the teachers make a pittance?”
Dr Risinamhonzi questioned the elements of motivation and care while one when doctors work under such conditions.
“But how can one be motivated when he or she is hungry? How much care can you show wen u are sad?”
“The government continually makes a mockery of doctors and nurses. The way things stand, going to work is actually subsidizing the government because you would be spending all you earn just to get to work,” added the doctor.
He also bemoaned the working conditions as well as dilapidated equipment in most health centres we have in the country.
“I work at a children’s hospital and l see sick babies from the moment they are born, some preterm, others full term. l witness the joy of mothers holding their newborn babies daily as well as the utter sadness that comes when l tell them that their baby has passed on. We save a lot of kids and we lose a lot of babies as well. A large number of them to things as simple as hypothermia. That’s fancy Latin word for the baby dying of cold simply because our hospitals lack heaters or air conditioning. We lose a lot of babies to diseases we could treat just because our hospitals are ill equipped,” said Dr Risinamhodzi.
“Parents to these children can not afford the extra fees necessary to buy medication in town or money to do medical tests. We have lost so many potentially brilliant future Zimbabwean leaders due to the decisions of today’s leaders. A hospital needs so many things to run. You need medication, equipment, infrastructure but most important, you need a motivated staff. The work we do requires one to be compassionate, to be kind, to be selfless, to care about the recovery of your patient more than anything else,” added Dr Risinamhodzi.
He however expressed fears of a further brain drain if things continue in this manner.
“Soon Zimbabwe will experience an exodus of doctors and nurses which has never been seen before, the reason being that talent goes where it is appreciated. Its sad how callous decision-makers can ruin what was once a beautiful country.”
“We have some of the most brilliant minds in the world but soon we will be losing them all. We deserve better. So when we strike do not think we lack compassion, no, we care yet we are too hungry to work,” he said.