* Public hospitals turn non-critical patients away
* Army doctors brought in to help treat patients
* Doctors want higher allowances, car facility
HARARE, Feb 22 Zimbabwe has deployed army medics
to work at major public hospitals following a week-long strike
by junior doctors who are demanding an increase in call
allowances and a duty free car facility, a senior government
official said on Wednesday.
Gerald Gwinji, permanent secretary in the Ministry of
Health, said the doctors' strike had put pressure on public
hospitals, which were already struggling with shortages of drugs
and under-funding from the government.
"When some people are not coming to work there is bound to
be an impact on service delivery and because these cadres
(doctors) on strike are at the first level of care, the impact
is even greater," Gwinji said.
"In some instances we have deployed cadres from the
uniformed forces to help in reducing the pressure."
The paediatric and maternity sections were the worst
affected, Edgar Munatsi, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital
Doctors Association, which called the strike, told Reuters.
Munatsi said doctors wanted their call allowances to be
increased to $10 an hour from the current $1.20. He said more
than 400 doctors were staying away from work, warning that
senior doctors could also join the strike.
"So the doctors are insisting that the government has to
offer something on the table on the issue of call allowances and
the duty free car facility as promised. Without that, they are
not going back," said Munatsi.
At Parirenyatwa Hospital, Zimbabwe's largest public hospital
in Harare, non-critical patients were being turned away and
referred to local clinics run by city councils.
United Bulawayo Hospitals in the country's second city
Bulawayo put out a notice saying that due to the doctors' strike
"we have resolved to attend to 'dire' emergencies only."
Doctors in the southern African nation last embarked on a
major strike in 2014 demanding higher call allowances, but
returned to work after President Robert Mugabe's government
promised to increase them and provide a car facility which would
allow doctors to import vehicles and not pay the duty.
Last July, doctors joined nurses, teachers and other civil
servants in a national shutdown over unpaid wages, which
coincided with anti-government protests called by social media
groups over a deteriorating economy.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ken Ferris)