Press Statement Lamenting the State of Health Care in Zimbabwe
18 November 2019
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) is deeply concerned and appalled by the blatant disregard for labour rights of doctors who were recently fired by the Government for engaging in strike action for improved salaries and working conditions. The firing of 211 doctors as reported through the media at a time when the economy is on a fast decline and the situation for livelihoods is dire and a cause for concern. To date, 509 doctors have been issued with hearing letters and this scenario should make Government realize the absurdity of its response to the Doctors’ strike and make it more amenable to an amicable solution which promotes human rights.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No.20 (the Constitution) is not a document for application outside of Zimbabwe but remains the domestic mandatory yardstick that governs the conduct of Government. Section 65 (3) of the Constitution affords doctors as employees the right to strike and section 65 (4) affords employees the right to just, equitable and satisfactory conditions of work. The Government has no basis to react emotionally towards employees exercising their constitutional right as a cover up for its failure to meet constitutional standards of offering just, equitable and satisfactory working conditions for its employees. The Constitution must be supreme and such action to dismiss doctors is arbitrary and violates the supremacy of the Constitution.
The Forum reminds the Government that section 76 of the Constitution gives every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services. The International Covenant for Economic Social and Cultural Rights provides for the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The Constitution clearly states that the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of the right to health. The Government must be progressing and must not be recklessly depleting the already available resources in hospitals.
Medical doctors are part of the essential resources that are relevant for access to health care. The action of firing them is retrogressive and against the principle of progressive realization of rights. This careless action alone has resulted in the failure of the health system to fully avail health care and reproductive health care services to the people of Zimbabwe. The sad and sorry state of affairs in Zimbabwe is a collapsing health care system characterized by loss of life and maternal deaths in Zimbabwe while the Government continues to plunge citizens into more anguish amidst unresolved economic decline. The Government must also strive to comply with the Abuja Declaration by allocating 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector in the country in order to ensure improved health services.
The Forum calls on the Government to urgently do the following;
• Stop victimising and firing medical doctors for exercising their labour rights.
• Urgently resolve the concerns of medical doctors in order to rescuscitate the failing health delivery system.
• Allocate 15% of the Annual Budget to the Health sector in line with the Abuja declaration on public financing for health.