The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
JUNIOR doctors who have been on strike for more than a month have called off the industrial action and will resume work in 48 hours following negotiations that were held yesterday.
A Health Bipartite Negotiating Panel which comprised the workers, the Health Services Board and the Government reached a consensus to end the strike that had crippled most referral hospitals in the country. In a statement yesterday, signed by all the parties, the panel agreed on a raft of measures that will see improvement in the health service delivery in the country.
They noted improvement of medical supplies at Natpharm and Government is still in the process of distributing the supplies to all Government hospitals. According to the statement, the Government also assured its employees of long term commitments to ensure availability of basic medicines and sundries in all institutions. Further, the Government gave reassurance on a previous position to review allowances in April.
“There shall be continued engagement between Government and Health Workers concerning remuneration in US dollars. The Apex panel was tasked with drafting a position paper with the required adjustments for health workers salaries by the end of March 2019,” read the statement.
The panel said in terms of unfreezing posts, the critical posts required to bring relief to Health Service delivery would cost an estimated $12,5 million which exceeds the $10 million offered by Treasury which would include posts for senior registrars.
The statement also read that Treasury has also fulfilled its earlier position and released the remaining $6 million to complete funding for the Health Service Vehicle Loan Scheme.
“Health workers will now get duty free certificates on their own volition, a scheme that will operate separately from the Vehicle Loan Scheme.
It will also not interfere with the original Vehicle Loan Scheme. The maximum values for the Duty Free Scheme shall be USD$7 500 for Junior Resident Medical Officers and Senior Registered Medical Officers, USD$15 000 for middle level doctors and USD$30 000 for senior doctors,” read the statement.
The statement further states that doctors were also guaranteed that they will not be victimised for taking part in the industrial action as it was cleared by the Labour Court. However, disciplinary cases of remaining cases would be done by senior doctors. In addition, there will be no dismissals or suspensions and no further pursuing of court proceedings after the engagement.
According to the panel, December salaries for doctors and radiographers who participated in the illegal industrial action would be paid in lieu of leave days by the end of January. Doctors and radiographers who were affected would need advance payments for the month of December 2018 which would be given by their institutions upon submission of applications for the advances.
On accommodation, the panel agreed that efforts would be made to ensure that junior doctors and health workers would get decent accommodation at health institutions. Institutions will also ensure that food would be provided for workers on call during nights. A housing scheme shall also be initiated in January 2019 to accommodate middle level, senior doctors and other health workers who stay outside the hospital premises.
The Government further affirmed that for 2019, all doctors who finish training would get employment at Government institutions while additional posts will also be created at central, provincial and district hospitals to accommodate such members. The panel agreed that
Treasury will in turn provide funding for placement and remuneration of all supernumerary registrars by the end of February 2019.