The minister of health, Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who is a military person is working on a plan that would deal with striking nurses, and discourage others from doing so in future.
The plan and system being crafted will honour those who are not taking part in the industrial action by making them permanent workers with higher status and fire those who are striking.
Nurses in the public sector are to be held to high professional standards with those who strike likely to be moved from the permanent staff and having to reapply for fixed term contracts should they wish to resume work under a revamped nursing service now being designed by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Under the exercise, the ministry is looking at having around two thirds of its nurses as permanent full-time staff, with the criteria for this higher status still being worked out, while the other third will be on fixed term contracts that can be renewed or the staff, when they meet the criteria, being moved to the permanent staff.
The new structure is expected to bring efficiency and encourage nurses to meet and uphold the highest professional standards in the newly-streamlined Health and Child Care portfolio now held by Vice President Chiwenga.
Nurses that have been refusing to report for work, pressing for salary increments, will be affected by this development.
“The nursing services will be restructured into three main pillars. The other pillar will constitute a third of the nursing staff and those ones will be employed as contract workers.
“The contracts will be renewed periodically,” the source said.
“The nurses on strike and those who continue to defy directives will be relieved of their duties. Those who wish to continue will have to re-apply and they will be admitted as contract workers,” said the source.
“The structure will be officially announced soon by the ministry and it is aimed at improving efficiency.”
Already the Government has put in place several measures to cater for the welfare of healthcare workers and to reward those who meet professional standards.
Last week, on top of the salaries and the salary increases for all Government staff and the standard Covid-19 relief allowance, healthcare workers are eligible for a second Covid-19 risk allowance.
The Covid-19 risk allowance for frontline workers was confirmed last night by the Health Services Board chair Dr Paulinus Sikosana.
“There was an additional allowance for those in the red zone. Not all of them are in the red zone. It is those who work in the wards with people that have been actually diagnosed with Covid-19, and it includes everyone from doctors, nurses to general hands.
“For healthcare workers, there is low, medium, high risk and red zone.
“The red zones are the ones in the thick of things. It is correct that the frontline workers received Covid-19 risk allowances from the Treasury last week but so far, the allowance was received by those in the red zone,” said Dr Sikosana.
Vice President Chiwenga has revamped the professional councils registering and monitoring health workers across the nation, in both the public and private sectors.
These are the councils that set qualifications and standards and register those who have the qualifications. The Nurses Council is still being revamped.
The fully staffed and fully functioning councils are: the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council, the Allied Health Practitioners Council, the Natural Therapists Council of Zimbabwe, the Pharmacists Council, the Medical Laboratory and Clinical Scientists Council, the Environmental Health Practitioners Council and the Medical Rehabilitation Practitioners Council. These councils were already in existence but are now fully staffed.
“I am very grateful that all the councils, except the Nurses Council of Zimbabwe, which is still being staffed are here present to share my strategic vision and aspirations of rebuilding our healthcare system,” said VP Chiwenga.
He decried the healthcare workers who were leaving their patients to die as a bait for achieving personal ends of salary increments.
“Without taking away the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, surely can we allow the ministry to maintain registers of health professionals who frequently abandon their patients? My heart bleeds for our beloved Zimbabwean citizens who might have lost their lives owing to neglect by some of our healthcare workers,” said VP Chiwenga.