HARARE - Doctors in Zimbabwe have ended a 40-day strike they called to demand better pay and working conditions. The government says the strike resulted in patients "unnecessarily" suffering and some dying.
Patients and health workers were glad to see doctors back on the job Thursday.
Patients began returning to Zimbabwe's largest treatment center after word spread that doctors had called off their 40-day strike Thursday.
One patient, 48-year-old Phylis Mukundu, has suffered chest pains for more than a month and now struggles to walk and talk.
Her mother, Gertrude Ngoshi, helped her get to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
"I am happy to hear that doctors are back. But my daughter is yet to be attended by any of them. I am looking forward to her full recovery then I know that their return is good news. Because it has been long having her in pain," Ngoshi said.
Zimbabwe's doctors went on strike Dec. 1, demanding better equipment and medicine for hospitals and to be paid in U.S. dollars instead of Zimbabwe's currency, the depreciating "bond notes."
Health officials met with doctors and patients at major hospitals and showed reporters medical equipment and medicines provided by the government.
Zimbabwe Health Minister Obediah Moyo lauded the doctors' return to work.
"We are going in the right direction. We always wanted them to be back. We have always been calling everyone to be back at work. And we are happy that they have heeded the call because it is for the benefit of all our patients. It is for the benefit of Zimbabweans," Moyo said.
Announcing the end of the strike, doctors said President Emmerson Mnangagwa met their demands regarding the equipment and medicines.
But the doctors conceded on one of their key desires — to be paid in U.S. dollars.
Speaking to VOA, Health Services Board Chairman Paulinus Sikhosana said there were no plans to meet that demand.
"You are aware that the Vice President [Constantino Chiwenga] made an emphatic statement that government will not pay salaries in U.S. dollars. That is the position of government and that is the context and framework that the government will move forward," Sikhosana said.
While the compromise could weaken the position of teachers also striking for U.S. dollars, for patients like Mukundu, the deal could be a life-saver.