THE Health Services Board (HSB) has served about 5 000 nurses with dismissal letters following the directive by Government to fire all nurses that disregarded the call to return to work.
However, confusion continues to reign among nurses after the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (Zina) filed a challenge against the dismissal at the Harare High Court on Friday.
It has also emerged that opposition politicians conspired with the leadership of the nurses.
The strike was part of a larger ploy by opposition politicians to stir labour unrest in the hope that it will reduce the chances of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling Zanu-PF party sweeping elections this year.
Last night Zina also released a statement announcing that all nurses countrywide had called off the strike and encouraged all members to report for duty tomorrow.
The nurses’ association however, maintained that their court application remains on course and they hoped the case would be heard soon. Information gathered by the Sunday News from the HSB indicated that by yesterday, 4 886 dismissal letters had been dispatched to various health centres countrywide.
A source at the board said more dismissal letters are expected to be issued once the remaining districts submit the names. The source added that some of the nurses that were served with the letters quickly reapplied to be given their jobs back.
“There are three or four districts that are yet to submit roasters, but so far 4 886 dismissal letters have been issued and have since been dispatched to stations for collection. The number could increase as more names come in,” said the source. On recruitment of nurses to replace those fired, the source said the process was ongoing countrywide with Harare Central Hospital having filled all vacant posts. The source added that the recruitment of nurses, which is being done on a first-come, first-serve basis was targeting the 2 400 unemployed qualified nurses in HSB’s data base.
“Harare Hospital has finished recruiting, while the process is ongoing at other health centres. Recruitment is being done basing on the 2 400 unemployed qualified nurses in our database. As the week goes we will have more solid information as to how many nurses would have been recruited and at which health centre,” said the source.
Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji told our sister paper, The Herald on Friday that nurses reapplying for recruitment would be assessed for their commitment to serve.
“In that re-application, naturally there is going to be reverting of suitable and unsuitable cadres not only in terms of professional qualifications, but in terms of suitability to serve in the public sector considering what has been happening,” he said. Dr Gwinji said institutions had also been directed to start the recruitment process on a first-come, first-serve basis. He appealed to those handling the administrative work to speed up the process to allow nurses to start their duties immediately.
Dr Gwinji said the Government would continue recruiting until all vacant posts are filled. Meanwhile, Zina secretary-general Mr Enock Dongo yesterday confirmed that they have taken the case to court.
“We filed our application on Friday and the employer has been served with the papers. We are now waiting for them to respond,” he said.
Nurses in Bulawayo Province met and resolved to end the strike while waiting for the Government to address their concerns. In a statement, Zina Bulawayo Province said they held a meeting at Ingutsheni Central Hospital where the decision was taken.
“As Bulawayo provincial committee, after consultations with our provincial members at a meeting held at Ingutsheni Central Hospital on 21 April 2018 date, the members have agreed to resume their duties with immediate effect. The province reached a consensus that there are anomalies with allowances and shortage of resources, we do understand the Government’s position, the plight of our nation and our patients. We accept the offer given by the Government. We have agreed to resume our duties with immediate effect while negotiations are taking place,” the statement reads.
Mpilo Central Hospital clinical director Mr Solwayo Ngwenya also confirmed that the strike has ended and normal operations will resume tomorrow.
“Yes, the strike is now over, at Mpilo we had 335 nurses that had been fired and already 309 have reapplied to be admitted into the service which is about 92 percent of the workforce coming back,” he said.
Mr Ngwenya said the remainder of nurses would possibly trickle in over the weekend and they have their complement back in place and work resumes on Monday. Mr Ngwenya also said the outpatients department which had been closed because of the strike will also open on Monday. He said nursing staff were a critical part of the institution’s operations.
“We value their presence and we are happy that they are back at work as this is necessary to prevent unnecessary deaths in the communities. We do hope that the Government will resolve the nurse’s grievances soon,” said Mr Ngwenya.
The nurses also appealed to the Government not to victimise any Zina members in Bulawayo Province upon resumption of duty. Panic has gripped some of the nurses after the letters started being disbursed.
“Most of us had salary-based loans and once the letters started coming, it dawned that for sure we were going to lose our jobs, that is why we quickly decided to come back to work,” said a nurse who requested anonymity.
“Some of us are bread winners and there was realisation that loss of income with impoverish our families,” said another nurse based at United Bulawayo Hospitals.
Nurses downed tools on Monday demanding a review of their remuneration and working conditions, but refused to take heed of Government’s call to return to work after they were given a commitment that authorities would attend to their grievances. Before the dismissal, Government had availed US$17,1 million to cover the health workers’ allowances.