Some Government Doctors, Nurses in Zimbabwe Return to Work on Humanitarian Grounds, Still Demand Higher Wages
Some government-employed doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe have returned to work on humanitarian grounds, but most are still on a strike that began last week and are demanding higher wages, Reuters reports (Banya, Reuters, 1/3). Thousands of health workers in the country also are leaving to find better-paying jobs in Australia, Britain or South Africa, which is further affecting the country's HIV/AIDS situation and drug shortages (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/2).
State media on Thursday reported that most physicians returned to work after the government approved loans worth 100 million Zimbabwean dollars -- or about $3,400 -- for all state employees, including health care workers. However, Amon Siveregi, president of the Zimbabwe's Hospital Doctors Association, said the strike has not been called off, contrary to reports. "Negotiations with the ministry continue, and while it's true that some doctors are turning up for work on humanitarian grounds, that doesn't mean the strike is over," Siveregi said (Reuters, 1/3).
Zimbabwe's Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa on Sunday said the government is negotiating with doctors and nurses. "We are talking to them as we have always done through the Health Services Board, and we hope to reach some agreement soon," Parirenyatwa said. Zimbabwean doctors receive about 60 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $2,000, monthly, and nurses receive about 30 million Zimbabwean dollars, or about $1,000, monthly. Student and army doctors are staffing government hospitals and clinics during the strike. Doctors and nurses at private clinics currently are not involved in the strike.
The country's efforts to increase access to antiretroviral drugs have been delayed by a shortage of foreign currency, which has increased poverty levels and raised inflation by 3,700%. More than 3,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses weekly in the country, and 70% of hospital admissions in Zimbabwe are HIV/AIDS-related. According to the World Health Organization, 321,000 people in the country are in need of antiretrovirals, but only 91,000 people have access to the drugs. In addition, only about 6% of children in need of HIV/AIDS treatment are receiving it. About 24% of people in the country in need of antiretrovirals receive them, compared with an average of 28% across sub-Saharan Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/2).