Harare – Zimbabwean health workers have left the country in droves over the past year, a senior official at the Health Services Board (HSB) has revealed.
More than 4 000 health workers have left since last year, HSB chairperson Dr Paulinus Sikosana told Reuters. This includes more than 1 700 registered nurses who resigned last year and more than 900 who left this year.
Health workers went on strike in June demanding to be paid in US dollars as inflation further weakened the local currency.
Doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe have found work mainly in Britain, leaving the country's health sector in dire straits and local hospitals understaffed.
Thousands of nurses and doctors at state-run hospitals are demanding a hefty pay rise and want their wages to be paid in US dollars due to a slide in the local currency and brisk inflation that has eroded the value of their earnings.
They went on strike after rejecting a government offer to double their local currency wages, saying the 100% hike wouldn’t even compensate for annual inflation that jumped to 131.7% in May.
Under Zimbabwean labour law, essential workers have to seek permission to strike, but the union leaders say they would not need to do so if they decided to resume this week's walkout.
Most of the country's nurses earn 20 000 Zimbabwe dollars (R925) a month, according to the Zimbabwe Nurses' Association.