ECONET Wireless founder Strive Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, through their Higher Life Foundation, have set up a $100 million fund which will see up to
2 000 junior and senior doctors employed by government getting $5 000 each on top of what they are earning from their employer.

The move comes at a time the public health delivery system in the country has virtually shut down due to a standoff between government and doctors following the firing of more than 435 junior doctors and around 57 senior doctors were set to face disciplinary action.

Masiyiwa also promised to give a smartphone, diagnostic aides and transport to the doctors on top of the $5 000 in the $100 million facility.

“Building on a 23-year commitment to education, Higher Life Foundation (HLF) is pleased to announce the launch of a new training fellowship for junior and senior resident officers employed at public healthcare institutions in Zimbabwe,” HLF said in a statement.

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“… with that in mind, HLF is launching, the medical training completion fellowship with immediate effect for those junior and senior resident officers who are in full time employment at public teaching hospitals within Zimbabwe. The scholarship covers those who are currently undergoing a junior or senior resident programme, with
special preference being given to beneficiaries of the Capernaum and Joshua Nkomo scholarships.”

The foundation said the $100 million fellowship comprises a non-negotiable monthly subsistence allowance of
$5 000 per doctor for a maximum of 2 000 doctors and was subject to unilateral review by HLF.

“The monthly subsistence will be disbursed to qualifying junior and senior resident officers on proof of being on duty at the specified institution for the duration of the month,” the charity group said.

The foundation said the facility was not from Econet Wireless Zimbabwe or Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe, but Higher Life Foundation, an initiative from the Masiyiwa Foundation with the support from its donor partners.

Meanwhile, striking senior doctors yesterday accused government of misleading the nation that it had secured huge quantities of drugs and essential equipment, saying public hospitals have become death traps with no equipment and or medicines.

“There was much fanfare and ribbon cutting, and images of warehouses full of drugs which turned out to be cartons of fluids. Out of an inventory of 2 000 items only 60 had been purchased. The Indian consignment was a great disappointment,” said the doctors in a statement. “The hospitals continue to be poorly stocked and remain a death trap even in the presence of hardworking, highly specialized workforce that Zimbabwe has.”

The Zimbabwe Senior Doctors Association said government should stop being vindictive and address the serious challenges facing the health sector where junior doctors have been on strike for 89 days demanding better wages.

“As we speak disciplinary letters are being handed to senior doctors including those who have been doing the best to save lives in the hostile public sectors. The authorities are so vindictive that they went to theatre to hand a letter to a doctor who was finishing up an emergency operation,” said the doctors.

But speaking at a Zanu PF youth convention in Kadoma yesterday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said government was not going back on firing doctors saying they were not a special breed. He accused the doctors of having a hidden agenda, claiming they were being paid money by enemies of the State to cause chaos.

“Let doctors get this very clear. They are not special to teachers, soldiers and other civil servants who are persevering in these economic hardships,” Mnangagwa said .

In a ministerial statement in Parliament last night, Health minister Obadiah Moyo blamed striking doctors and nurses for the massive deaths at hospitals.

Moyo did not give specific figures of how many deaths occurred during the strike as requested by Health Portfolio Committee chairperson Ruth Labode.

“They were not incapacitated in terms of transport and they were neglecting their duties and did not attend to patients. The number of patients that died at hospitals was as a result of doctors who stayed away and not government. Doctors took oath and those that stayed at work stations were supposed to attend to the patients,” he said.

Moyo said government has always had a policy to recruit doctors from outside under bilateral arrangements with countries like China, India and Cuba.

But MDC legislator Paurina Mpariwa said government must consider the cost of flying and accommodation for expatriate doctors compared to actually increasing salaries of the striking local medical practitioners.

Kuwadzana MP Miriam Mushayi blasted Moyo for concentrating on disciplining the doctors instead of negotiating with them. MDC legislator Lynette Karenyi-Kore also quizzed him over decline in maternity services to the extent that women were resorting to archaic birthing methods in Mbare. But Moyo said the maternity situation was addressed by the re-opening of Edith Opperman Maternity Clinic in Harare.

Moyo acknowledged the health crisis in the country saying only Chitungwiza Central Hospital was operating at 39%, while at other hospitals, the situation was dire because of shortages of drugs and equipment.

But he told Parliament that development partners like the Global Fund and World Bank had volunteered to assist government to incentivise the doctors.