The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is gravely concerned and worried about the implications of the recent strike by health workers mainly Doctors, which started in Harare two weeks ago and has now spread to district and provincial hospitals.
As a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) the Commission’s primary function is to protect and promote human rights including the right to healthcare as enshrined in Section 76 of the Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe which reads:
“Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic healthcare services, including reproductive health service”. This right also extends to every person living with chronic illness and thus no person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any healthcare institution.
The Constitution further obliges the state to take reasonable legislative and other measures within the limits of its resources available to it, to achieve progressive realisation of the health rights set out in the Constitution.
The Commission further takes cognisance of the labour rights stipulated under Section 65 and specifically 65(1) that states:
“Every person has the right to fair and safe labour practises and standards and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage.”
The Constitution further recognises except for security services, the right of every employee to participate in collective job action, including the right to strike, sit in, withdraw their labour and to take other similar concerted action, but a law may restrict the exercise of this right in order to maintain essential services, (see s.65(3).
The Commission has been reliably informed that the reasons for the doctors’ strike relate to the poor conditions of service including the overwhelming burden of work attributed to a dysfunctional health system.
The Commission therefore wishes to call upon and urge both parties, the Government as the duty bearer and the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) to engage in a round table discussion with a view to solving this impasse that puts innocent lives at greater risk and danger. Existing patients are disadvantaged in that, besides undergoing pain and suffering as a result of their health ailments, they are also denied medical attention and thus subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment by those expected to ensure the preservation of life.
There is urgent need for flexibility and principled compromise by both the Government and medical doctors when discussing solutions to address the above crisis. The Commission urges both parties and other key stakeholders to ensure a timely resolution of this strike as a way of reducing the suffering of patients and other prospective patients in our hospitals.
Commissioner Elasto H. Mugwadi
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
Date: 12 November 2014