Today, we pay glowing tribute to health workers across the country for their sacrifice, gallantry and professionalism even in the face of the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.
From the outset, I would like to place on record that the Government under the able leadership of His Excellency the President, Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu has been working on addressing the plight of health workers in terms of recruitment, and settling of all outstanding staff debts.
The government has opened its doors to stakeholders in health service delivery hence championing dialogue and mutual understanding among workers.
To this effect, the Resident Doctors Association of Zambia (RDAZ), has engaged the government and demanded the following:
Salary arrears for the 309 doctors.
Dismantling of arrears and gratuities for other medical doctors
Creation of positions for Senior Resident Medical Officers, Registrars and Consultants –
Recruitment of 500 newly graduated medical doctors
In response to these demands, the Government has done the following:
SALARY ARREARS FOR THE 309 DOCTORS
I must mention that in the spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding, government has been engaging the Doctors through the Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) and the Resident Doctors Association (RDAZ) to address their concerns. In view of the foregoing, I would like to inform the nation that the Ministry of Health recruited 3,000 nurses and 309 medical doctors in 2019 through the Civil Service Commission.
These officers were deployed to various facilities country-wide between March and May 2019.
I further wish to inform the nation that so far, the Ministry of Health, working with the Public Service Management Division (PSMD) and the Civil Service Commission has amended the effective dates of appointments for the health workers recruited in 2019 from 1st September 2019 to the dates that they reported at their respective stations. This was after the Ministry of Finance granted an amendment to the effective dates for Treasury Authority No. 5 and 6 of 2019 from 1st September, 2019 to 1st March 2019.
It is with pleasure that I announce that all the 309 Junior Resident Medical Officers employed between March and May of 2019 have been paid their outstanding arrears. In the same vein, payments for the other health workers employed during the same period is underway.
DISMANTLING OF ARREARS AND GRATUITIES FOR OTHER MEDICAL DOCTORS
It is admitted that government owes Health workers arrears in form of personnel emoluments across the country. Government remains committed to dismantling these arrears in a phased manner.
Principally, gratuities are paid at the end of the tenure of contract and accumulate over time as contracts expire. Liquidation of these arrears is an ongoing activity.
However, as an interim measure Government has committed to release some funds next week that will go towards dismantling of the accumulated debt for health workers including doctors.
It must be noted that accumulation and dismantling of this debt is a continuous process and shall be done over a period of time.
CREATION OF POSITIONS FOR SENIOR RESIDENT MEDICAL OFFICERS, REGISTRARS AND CONSULTANTS
Following the restructuring of the Ministry of Health, positions for Senior Resident Medical Officers, Registrars and Consultants have been created and are just awaiting funding.
To this effect, a number of positions have been funded through Treasury Authority granted this year and appropriate officers will be placed in those positions.
We will continuously open up more positions as additional Treasury Authority is granted.
RECRUITMENT OF 500 NEWLY GRADUATED MEDICAL DOCTORS
Government is also aware of the growing number of unemployed qualified professionals in various fields that need to be absorbed in the mainstream Government and the private sector. We are committed to ensuring that this happens as soon as possible given the financial resources required to put these on payroll.
Government set out a plan to recruit health workers in the country and in the past four years’ 24,875 health workers have been employed. This has helped improve health service delivery countrywide.
In 2021, the Government of the Republic of Zambia, through the Ministry of Health is expected to recruit a further 766 health workers using the Treasury Authority for 2021 granted and the utilization of existing vacant and funded positions.
Let me take this opportunity to remind all Medical Doctors of their noble call as a profession, responsibility and the need for them to help the patients and clients. I urge Doctors to continuously put the patients at the core, more especially this time when we are fighting the ravaging effects of the COVID-19.
I call upon all Health Workers to remain dedicated to duty and not despair as all their grievances are being addressed. PI am encouraged to note that Doctors will continue working and I commend them as their calling is to save life.
However, should doctors proceed on the intended industrial action, we wish to remind that the doctors will be individually liable to disciplinary action in accordance with the service commission disciplinary code and procedures for handling offences in the public service.
Further, the Health Professions Act will be applied to the doctors that will participate in the withdraw of labour, as such action is tantamount to professional neglect and misconduct which will be met with the strongest punitive action. This is an offence and such workers will not be paid their due salaries.
I, therefore, take this opportunity to assure members of the public that with the engagements made with the Doctors leadership, no disruption of services is expected in all our health facilities countrywide.
I thank you and God bless!
PUBLIC SERVICE MANAGEMENT DIVISION (PSMD)
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