Nurses fume over paltry govt loans

Constantino Chiwenga

The government  is under fire after releasing a measly $23 million loan facility to health workers to buy or construct houses, yet the figure is only enough to construct one house.

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s Health and Child Care ministry is struggling to stem the mass exodus of health professionals, who are protesting poor pay and working conditions.

Health workers have been pushing for better pay and in United States dollars, saying the local currency component has pushed them into deep poverty.

Government says it has no capacity to meet their demands, and promised other non-monetary incentives such as housing loans, which have been dismissed as laughable by unions.

In a memo addressed to Health and Child Care ministry heads of divisions, chief medical officers and provincial medical directors dated August 30, Jasper Chimedza who is the ministry's secretary said $23 million has been received from Treasury for the housing loan scheme.

“Please be advised that the ministry of Health and Child Care was allocated $23 000 000 for the junior civil service loan facility and is calling for applications from eligible junior members (below deputy director level) to access the loan scheme,” Chimedza wrote.

“The loan is being coordinated at head office level and your respective officers are expected to forward one application from a member in dire need of financial assistance to be utilised for the construction of residential properties and upgrading of residential properties.”

Using the interbank rate, $23 million translates to an estimated US$46 000 and approximately US$35 000 at the parallel market.

A housing stand costs anything about US$5 000 to US$15 000 depending on the size and location.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president Enock Dongo said government was never serious about addressing the plight of health workers.

“There is no sincerity at all from government as far as this issue is concerned,” Dongo said.

“How can they allocate such a small amount which can only afford to build or buy one house in Glenview?

“We are saying to government, ‘let’s stop fooling each other.

“Can we realistically improve the working conditions of health workers.

“If they want to give that money to one person, let it be clear to everyone and not waste people’s time.”

As the wage dispute with government rages on, nurses have been quitting their jobs en-masse.

According to Dongo, an estimated 3 000 nurses have quit their jobs and left for the United Kingdom since 2021.

A few months ago, the UK said its health system needs to fill about 110 192 posts left vacant after the death of frontline health workers because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Government has announced plans to ban doctors and nurses from embarking on strike for more than three days under new proposed amendments to the Health Services Act.

Under the Health Services Amendment Bill, worker representatives who face charges of inciting  nurses and doctors to embark on a strike action deemed illegal could be jailed for three years in what authorities argue is necessary to ostensibly “instil discipline” in the health sector.

Related Topics