HARARE – The Zimbabwean government has told the Labour Court “incapacitated” doctors simply have to go to work like all other civil servants, Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) lawyer Douglas Coltart has said.
After failing to enforce a threat to discipline all doctors who failed to report for duty on Monday, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo has approached the Labour Court seeking an order to declare the job action that is in its second month, illegal.
In papers filed at the Labour Court, the government however admitted that doctors were finding it hard to get by but should go back to work.
“Doctors are saying we are not on strike, we are failing to go to work, we are unable, we are incapacitated.
“A concession was actually made by counsel for the Health Services Board (HSB) to say that indeed doctors are incapacitated but they should just go back to work anyway because other civil servants are doing so,” said Coltart.
“With respect, once you make that concession that indeed doctors are incapacitated that is the end of the matter. It is not a strike doctors are simply not able to go to work.”
The case, which was supposed to be heard Tuesday afternoon, will now be heard Thursday at the Labour Court in Harare.
On Monday, junior and middle level doctors marched from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals to the HSB offices demanding their salaries be pegged against the US dollar inter-bank rates.
Government has resisted the move and maintains doctors should negotiate through the Health Apex Council which the medical practitioners walked out of last week. The ZHDA has however pulled out its membership from the Health Services Apex Council accusing the body of being compromised.
The doctors have indicated that they will not be swayed by government threats and are willing to stretch the industrial action to 100 days if government does not own up to its contract.
Thousands have died during the impasse and more have been turned away by nurses who cannot deal with some of the complicated afflictions they are bringing.
Efforts by the central authority to rope in medical practitioners from state security establishments have not made the situation any better.