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Covid-19 victimisation outrages nurses



SOME nurses at one of the country’s largest referral hospitals, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital in Harare, were forced to resign following alleged victimisation by the hospital administration after speaking out against lack of protective clothing and malpractices by the administration, documents show.

Health workers in Zimbabwe have been calling on the government to provide enough personal protective clothing (PPE) as they are exposed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) this week said over 1 500 healthcare providers had contracted the virus while at least eight had succumbed to the disease as of last week.

Nurses at Harare hospital protested earlier this month after a matron at the maternity ward succumbed to Covid-19. Apart from a shortage of PPE, the nurses also complained about how the hospital management were not prioritising the health of the nurses and not testing them timely.

After the demonstration, nurses including those who had voiced out their concerns to the media were suspended and summoned to hearings, charged with many things including lying about the situation at the hospital.

Three nurses who spoke to The NewsHawks said they decided to resign after the hospital seemed to be in a rush to get rid of them without following due process.

Despite guidelines stating that there should be warnings and an investigation before a hearing, the nurses say the actions of the administration of suspending and charging them showed a motive to fire them.

“I do not believe I will get justice in the disciplinary hearing especially because it is the CEO (Christopher Pasi) who is charging me. I am unable to go through another emotional process where I should fight to prove my rights to someone who does not respect my profession as a nurse. It is for this reason only that I am resigning as I have to protect my mental wellbeing from all the strain I am taking,” former organising secretary of the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (Zina) at Harare hospital Samson Gurupira said in a resignation letter.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that am no longer wanted. No matter how much am willing to continue serving, I just cannot force a relationship. I have no power to force the employers to change their negative attitude towards me.”

Gurupira said he had previously — as a Zina executive committee member — clashed with the hospital management on several issues at the Labour Court and High Court and won. He said his victimisation has been unending.

“I received yet another charge based on what I am alleged to have said on the internet. I have already handed my written response on that issue. What worries me is that there’s no end to the victimisation that I am receiving at the hands of the chief executive officer who is supposed to be presiding over my case,” he said in the letter.

A nurse who came out complaining about the shortage of PPE in the media said she had only told the truth that the management wanted to remain hidden.

“We were being exposed to the deadly virus the truth might be that the minister is not aware of all those things so they want to silence everyone who speaks out a lot of things are happening at the hospital which are corrupt,” the nurse said.

“I have resigned not because I don’t want to serve Zimbabwe, but I feel as nurses we are being unfairly treated at the institution and there is a lot of unfair labour practice which is being done.”

In a suspension letter to another nurse seen by The NewsHawks, and signed by the hospital CE on 12 January, the nurse was charged with undermining the authority of the hospital management.

“The suspension is premised on the fact you, on the 7th of January 2021 you are alleged to have shouted disrespectful utterances to the principal nursing officer and acting clinical director indicating the acting clinical director had instructed doctors at the staff clinic not to treat or give off duties to nurses who are genuinely ill,” the letter read.

The nurse said: “When you are alleged to have insulted the highest office of an organisation you don’t stand a chance to win.”

Sally Mugabe Central Hospital CE Christopher Pasi said the actions taken against the nurses constituted an investigation process.

“People normally just say their side of the story.  We were investigating them for issues they had raised which were false. They were vocalising and talking about things that were not true,” he said.

“Some made some serious allegations about manipulation of testing and it affects the whole system.  The other one came out in a publication naming a matron, accusing her of all sorts of things and she started receiving calls and messages from all over, some harassing her.  This is an internal human resources issue. They have demonstrated before but lying is crossing the line.”