Doctors, Nurses Banned From Striking
25 July 2021The government has gazetted amendments to the Health Services Act which ban doctors and nurses working in public health institutions from going on strike for an uninterrupted period spanning more than three days. The amendments to the Act, which were gazetted on Friday, once passed, will also require doctors and nurses to give two days’ notice in writing before embarking on collective job action. In addition, all health care providers will be required by law to provide care to patients in a medical emergency or needing critical or intensive care while they are on strike. Under the proposed amendments to the Health Services Act, a worker representative who incites or organises an illegal job action could also face up to three years in jail. Dr Maxwell Hove, who is the chief director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, said once passed, the law will allow health care workers to strike for three days and wait for two weeks before embarking on another strike. Said Hove:
Healthcare workers will not be able to go on strike for more than three days and will stay at work for a minimum of two weeks before the law allows them to go on another three-day strike. In each case no strike can go beyond three days and emergencies will also be covered during every strike. The amendments also seek to replace the Health Services Board with an independent commission – the Health Services Commission.The Commission will, among other things, create grades in the health service and fix conditions of service for doctors and nurses. The proposed changes will designate health care workers as essential service providers as defined under the Labour Act. The Labour Act designates any service whose interruption endangers the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the public as an essential service. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) president Enoch Dongo said there was a need for Government to consult health care professionals before enacting the amendments.