Over 200 nurses, doctors, and health support staff at Claybank Private hospital in Gweru have been on strike since Monday, demanding improved working conditions.
The health workers at the Premier Service Medical Investments (PSMI)-owned health care centre are demanding better salaries, USD allowances and PPE.
One of the staff members told The Sun that patients are being turned away because of a shortage of protective clothes, basic medicine, and low morale among staff members. Said the employee:
We have temporarily downed tools to protest against the deteriorating working conditions and failure of the employer to pay us our RTGS salaries on time, as well as the non-payment of COVID-19 allowances which civil servants are receiving.
We have been trying to talk to the PSMI management about our challenges and incapacitation but it seems they don’t care.
The hospital has reportedly suspended operation procedures as the theatre has no basic equipment needed, and also the unavailability of technicians to operate the X-ray machines.
On Tuesday, patients were reportedly being referred to the Gweru Provincial Hospital for treatment. Said another health worker:
The hospital is now struggling to offer quality service as patients are being turned away due to a lack of medication and the unavailability of doctors.
The working condition here is dangerous as we are exposed to diseases due to a lack of protective clothing.
Our salaries are not coming on time and we are being paid RTGS, just imagine being paid April salary in May when the currency had already lost value.
When contacted by The Sun, a PSMI spokesperson admitted that the company was experiencing cash flow challenges. Said the spokesperson:
Working capital gaps continue to affect the operations of the hospital, and indeed, PSMI as a whole.
Because of the gaps that exist between the costs of providing services and the revenue inflows, we will continue to face challenges in areas like remuneration and conditions of service.
We acknowledge that the negative working capital gap at PSMI has resulted in business disruptions which include intermittent closures of some facilities as a result of a delayed payment of premise and practitioner licenses, practitioner cover, rentals and rates, and supply of water and backup power.
The PSMI spokesperson also admitted there is a huge backlog of payments for staff benefits but was working flat out to rectify the situation. He said:
The management is working with staff representatives to establish a meeting of minds on how we can continue to provide services in the current situation as service delivery remains a priority as does staff welfare.
The movement of our funding cycle has led directly to the delays in salary dates.
The concerns of our staff are valid, and we have had a backlog of payments of staff benefits which we have begun to settle, but the gap remains and at the current rate, it will take a while longer to get up to date.
We are confident that once all stakeholder engagements are completed and our situation improves, we will once again be an employer of choice.