GOVERNMENT has served close to 500 nurses from Bulawayo’s two major hospitals with suspension letters for not reporting for duty and they are expected to appear before a disciplinary hearing next week.

The nurses are part of the 1 280 nurses who failed to report for duty protesting the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s decision to scrap the flexi working hours in the health sector.

The nurses wanted to work for three days a week while Government said they should work 40 hours a week.

Government suspended 266 nurses at Bulawayo United Hospitals (UBH) and 211 at Mpilo Central Hospital.

UBH acting chief executive officer Dr Narcisius Dzvanga said all the suspended nurses will face disciplinary action for failing to report for duty.

“There are about 266 who have been served with suspension letters. This is not being done by UBH but by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Government said anyone who did not obey the circular (to report for duty) must be disciplined first before coming back to work.

“This is a countrywide thing because we are moving from the flexi working hours where nurses used to work three days in and four days off. The Health Minister (Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga) and Permanent Secretary (Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza) said nurses should work a 40-hour week again,” said Dr Dzvanga.

He said some nurses complied with the directive and reported for duty while those suspended refused to report for duty.

“It is these defiant nurses who have been served with suspension letters and will appear before a disciplinary hearing. Its procedural just like at any other workplace, if you don’t report for work you go through some disciplinary processes,” said Dr Dzvanga.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the 211 were served with suspension letters on Wednesday and yesterday. “I would like to urge the Government to speedily complete the process so that patients do not suffer. They are going for disciplinary hearing next week and I hope the process will not take too long,” said Prof Ngwenya.

On Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said 1 280 nurses faced disciplinary action countrywide for failing to report for duty.

She said Cabinet insisted that the flexi working hours for nurses be scrapped for Government to effectively provide health care to citizens.

“Cabinet resolved to cancel the flexi hours arrangement and that nurses who fail to report for duty be subjected to disciplinary processes, that daily attendance registers for nurses be submitted to the Health Services Board and the Ministry of Health and Child Care Head Office and that nursing services be restructured to be supported by three pillars; namely contract workers; Health Service Permanent Workers and Secondment from the Uniformed Forces,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.