HARARE - Senior doctors in Zimbabwe have joined their junior counterparts in a general strike over low wages that they say are not keeping up with high inflation.
On Wednesday, health care workers said they would continue their strike, which began Tuesday to protest the dismissal of junior colleagues who walked out in September, paralyzing the country's health delivery system.
Zimbabwe's biggest hospital, Parirenyatwa General in Harare, looked deserted as patients were being turned away.
Margret Mashava brought in her pregnant sister, Marvel, who she suspected might have complications related to an earlier cesarean section.
"Now we are stranded. We do not know what to do. There are no nurses at the clinics. We do not know. Maybe we will approach midwives since there are no doctors now. We don't know what to do," she said.
Zimbabwe's senior doctors on Wednesday said in a statement that they had watched "over the past few months as the situation in our hospitals deteriorate … no bandages, no gloves and syringes available. In response, the employer [the government] unlawfully withheld their salaries. The authorities are so vindictive that they went to [a medical] theater to hand a letter to a doctor who was finishing an emergency operation. For the record, the senior doctors will not be reapplying to go back to work."
Tawanda Zvakada of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said he hoped the government would swiftly act now that senior doctors had joined the strike.
He said, "Doctors are not neglecting patients at all. But they have been put in such a situation that they can't do anything. This is solely to blame on the government side. We have reiterated that we are not on strike, but incapacitated. The will is there but we do not have the capacity. Once we are capacitated, you will see doctors at hospitals."
Being "incapacitated" is the word government workers are using to justify staying at home, saying their salaries of below $100, in some cases, cannot let them meet their basic needs.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government claims it can't pay more to its workers, but critics point to skewed priorities, an apparent reference to frequent foreign trips and purchases of luxury vehicles by senior officials while the social sector is ailing and largely depends on foreign donors.