All striking nurses and midwives at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country’s largest referral hospital have been dismissed with immediate effect for participating in what government is calling a wild-cat strike.
Health Minister Joseph Kasonde announced yesterday that all the striking nurses who did not return for work at the expiry of the deadline of the ultimatum government had given had their contracts terminated.
Dr Kasonde said that even those who had received their exculpatory letters but had not responded had their contracts terminated and government is taking a census of the total number of affected nurses before it could move forward.
In letters of exculpatory saved to the striking nurses by UTH management as directed by Dr Kasonde, the nurses have been ordered to explain why they should not be disciplined or charged for absconding work for over seven days without any official leave.
According to management officials who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation said that the affected nurses would start receiving their individual exculpatory letters today as directed by the Minister of Health.
Ironically however, government has decided to dismiss all the nurses even before they could receive their exculpatory letters.
But the striking nurses and midwives found at the UTH grounds yesterday afternoon told the Daily Nation that Dr. Kasonde should own up and resign on moral ground for failing to resolve the strike which has paralysed the operations at the country’s largest referral hospital.
The nurses said that no individual striking nurse or paramedic would respond to the exculpatory letters being saved on them because they have done nothing wrong.
The nurses said that Dr. Kasonde should stop using divide and rule tactics by targeting individual nurses, adding that the nurses have always reported for work waiting for government officials to address them over their demands.
“Who has refused to meet who? Dr. Kasonde should not be used to fight nurses and medical officers who feel aggrieved because he is just putting his head on the chopping board. No one among the nurses would respond to the exculpatory letters we hear that they have written to all of us,” said the angry nurses who have vowed not to go back for work until their demands are addressed.
The nurses observed that the PF government was not willing to dialogue with the striking nurses, adding that their effort to send their union leaders to ask Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda and Dr. Kasonde to address them failed as the ministers arrogantly refused to meet and chat the way forward.
“So because of their failures today they want to run away from the mess they created. We are not going back for work if they want let them fire us. We are ready for them. We know when to deal with them. We are not cadres to treat with handouts,” said the nurses.
The nurses said that threats by Dr. Kasonde of taking disciplinary action against the striking nurses was not near any solution to resolving any problems the health sector was facing because even the nurses they would employ would behave the same way.
“Let Dr. Kasonde fire us, we shall see what benefits they will get at the end of the day. We asked for the Minister of labour to come and attend to us he refused so what do they want us to do? The only thing that we hear is for these people threatening us with dismissals as if we are their children or cadres. We are not PF cadres. Fire us,” they said.
We are not going back for work and we are ready to be fired at anytime if that will please him. The people of Zambia must know that Dr. Kasonde and Shamenda have no courtesy for others, they have no respect for the people of Zambia and should be held accountable for the death recorded since the start of the strike,” said the nurses.
The strike has spread across the country with the latest being the Chipata General Hospital in the Eastern Province and Kasama General Hospital in Northern Province of Zambia where nurses have down tools in solidarity of their colleagues at the UTH.
Other areas that have seen nurses going on strike are Kitwe Central Hospital and Ndola General Hospital on the Copperbelt while Livingstone, Choma, Monze and Mazabuka General Hospitals have also joined in work stoppage to press government for better salaries.
The nurses are angered by the PF decision to increase salaries for cleaners or non professional workers who are now getting K2900 equal to professional personnel such as the nurses and midwives and other paramedics in the Ministry of Health.
The nurses are now demanding K10 000 as their new salaries.