By Brenna Matendere/Kennedy Nyangani
The government yesterday cancelled a meeting with unions representing health workers following Health minister Obadiah Moyo’s arrest on corruption charges.
Moyo, who was arrested on Friday, was freed on bail after he appeared at the Harare magistrates court yesterday charged with criminal abuse of office.
The charges are linked to a $60 million medical equipment supply deals given to a company known as Drax International, which is fronted by a controversial businessman Delish Nguwaya, who allegedly has links with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s children.
The cancelled meeting was aimed at persuading the health workers, who went on strike last Thursday demanding salaries in foreign currency, to return to work.
Checks at the country’s major hospitals that include Mpilo Central, United Bulawayo Hospitals and Parirenyatwa Hospital, showed that the majority of nurses did not report for work yesterday, leaving patients stranded.
At some of the hospitals seriously ill patients were being discharged prematurely due to the shortage of nurses.
At provincial hospitals in Marondera, Masvingo, Mutare, Kwekwe and Gweru, more nurses had joined the strike yesterday.
Robert Chiduku, the Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president, said government had requested a meeting with the unions, which was cancelled because of Moyo’s unavailability.
“The government had called for the meeting,” Chiduku said.
“They wanted to see us.
“Today (yesterday) we had more health workers joining the strike except for a few, who are either related to bosses or were corruptly employed, reporting for work.
“But generally in the whole country the majority of the health workers are on strike.”
Chiduku said the health workers would only go back to work when their demands for salaries pegged in United States dollars and improved working conditions are met.
Meanwhile, nurses at the Victoria Chitepo Hospital in Mutare said they were still traumatised by their arrest last week after they protested against poor working conditions.
On Friday, most of the nurses and general staff at the hospital were arrested for joining the nationwide strike by health workers.
They were taken to Mutare Central Police Station where they were detained before being released without charge.
“I am still traumatised because l was arrested,” said one nurse.
“I thought we were doing what other nurses where doing in other parts of the country, but we were arrested.
“We are now traumatised and we fear going to work because we might be arrested again.”
Other nurses vowed to continue with the strike until their grievances are addressed.
Health workers went on strike a day after the government increased salaries of civil servants by 50% and introduced a US$75 temporary monthly allowance.
The government, however, says the money will not be paid out in cash.