The University Teaching Hospital, the nation’s highest referel hospital, was yesterday paralysed after midwives, nurses and medical doctors downed tools over a wage dispute with the government.
A check in Ward CO3, the hospitals maternity wing, found that medics had refused to attend to pregnant women and other patients as they were not happy with the way the new salary increments had been effected.
“Tatuli fipuba, twalisambilila, sendeni ba cleaners mubabofye kubalwele (We are not fools, we are learned, get cleaners you use them to treat patients for us we are not ready to get back for work not until you address the increments).
Where on earth does a cleaner get more than a nurse? Which country is that? Yaba Sata na Kabimba fye,” one of the nurses said.
And the work stoppage by nurses and other health workers in Lusaka has spread to Southern, Western, Copperbelt and Eastern Provinces.
Another check at UTH children wing found nurses waiting to be addressed by their union representatives and other senior managers, while others walked away saying that they did not have time to listen to lies by those that were paid to convince them to get back for work.
Nurses and other health workers among other things are demanding decent salary increment saying that they felt insulted by the PF government to equate them to cleaners and others who were non-professionals.
After the PF government increased salaries cleaners are getting K2.900, while nurses are between the range of K2.900 and K3.100.
According to sources at the hospital, nurses were infuriated after realising that their salaries were equated to cleaners, security guards and other classified daily employees at the institution who were now getting K2.900 on average.
Nurses and midwives who have described the recent salary increment shameful and lack of respect by the Patriotic Front (PF) government to professionals said that they would not get back to work until government review the increment.
The nurses also said that they felt betrayed by their union leaders who went for a raw deal which has created confusion and discontent in the manner the health sector would operate.
A group of nurses went round all the wards removing all nurses who were working at UTH both at the main hospital and the children wing.
About midday yesterday, health workers mainly clinical officers and nurses in Monze, Mazabuka, Choma and Livingstone were waiting for instructions to stop work until the matter is resolved.
In Chipata nurses, Mongu and Kitwe nurses had actively joined the strike demanding for a serious increment saying that the PF government will not get away with what they described cheap lies.
But Civil Servants and Allied Worker Union of Zambia (CSAWUZ) public relations Alphas Munakaila said that nurses and other aggrieved workers should understand the negotiation process.
Munakaila said that those striking should also understand that workers such as cleaners, guards and others who were getting little salaries have been put in lime light for them to also have an equal share of the national cake.
“The union is aware about the strike or work stoppage by some nurses, our appeal is to our members to be patient. They need to understand the negotiation process and above all we were informing them about the discussions that we were having with government.
Nurses should also understand what is at stake, these people (CDEs) were least remunerated in terms of salaries and government was trying to bridge up the gap between the lowly paid and others. We know that they are not happy-we shall talk to them to understand the whole issue,” said Munakaila
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Mkhondo Lungu has ordered Minister of Health Joseph Katema to issue a comprehensive statement next week on the status of the health sector in the country with respect to reports of strikes by nurses and midwives.This was after Chipata Central member of parliament Reuben Mtolo Phiri stood on a point of order to find out whether the government was in order to keep quiet on the matter when nurses had downed tools.In his ruling, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Mkhondo Lungu ordered that the ministry responsible issues a statement on the matter next week, amid mummers from the opposition who wanted the matter to be addressed urgently.