Zimbabwe's striking doctors and nurses have turned down a new pay increase offer of US$50 to US$850, insisting on their original
demands that their salaries be raised to at least US$2 000, it was reported Monday.
The state-owned daily Herald reported that the health personnel had
been given the US$50-850 offer over and above their normal earnings, but it was rejected as being too little to cover their monthly needs. However, an official with the Zimbabwe Hospitals Doctors'
Association who declined to be identified dismissed as "totally false" the Herald story.
"We have not yet received anything concrete from the government. The last time we communicated they indicated that they were able to pay doctors US$240 a month," he said, while nurses were offered
"something very shameful." The official added, "We will not return to work until our needs are
addressed. Our demands are reasonable. We cannot work on empty stomachs. We're not responsible for the escalating of prices in the country."
Zimbabwe Health Minister David Parirenyatwa said it was too early to comment on the newspaper report and that the issue of salaries was a "confidential" one. "But I can tell you that we have put a good proposal to our health staff and we hope they will take it and end this impasse. It has cost so many innocent lives and caused a lot of suffering," he said.
Healthy system in disarray
Doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe went on an industrial action starting last September to force Harare to review their salaries. At the time they were earning less than US$20 dollars a month in a country with the
highest inflation in the world. They also demanded that hospitals be given modern equipment and adequate medication for treating patients. The health personnel strike coincided with the outbreak of a cholera epidemic that has claimed close to 2 000 lives since its outbreak in August.
Zimbabwe's health delivery system, once the envy of many countries in Africa, has collapsed amid the loss of personnel seeking better positions elsewhere. They say patients are dying of curable ailments
because of archaic equipment and shortages of medicines.
Since the health personnel strike began, public hospitals have not been admitting patients. Those ill have an option of staying at home in pain or visiting private clinics, which have modern equipment. But they charge from at least US$500. – (Sapa, January 2009)
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