VAYA Zimbabwe yesterday stopped picking up health workers from home saying the transport support service was now available from the central business district to their workplace and back only.

BY BRENNA MATENDERE

The country’s largest transport and logistics group operated by Cassava On Demand Services, initially gave a 30-day transport relief to nurses, doctors and other public healthcare workers in August last year, following a protracted battle with government over poor remuneration.

Early this year the organisation offered free transport to public healthcare workers in a bid to cushion them from high costs of travelling to work during the COVID-19 period. The service was also part of measures to avert a crippling strike by nurses who had declared incapacitation due to poor salaries.

However, on Sunday VAYA issued a notice to withdraw the service.

The notice read: “It is with great dismay that I inform you that VAYA will no longer be able to carry you all from your locations to work anymore starting on Monday. However it will be ferrying you from town to the hospital and vice versa. We have come up with a plan which may or may not work for you which is to try and liaise with the owners of the kombis to come to an agreement whereby they can carry you from your locations but at your cost which can lessen your stresses of early morning to catch the Zupco.”

Company spokesperson Fungai Mandivheyi told NewsDay that the arrangement to ferry nurses from home was only temporary and at the request of major hospitals during level one of the coronavirus lockdown.

“We offered to ferry nurses to their places of work and back to a central point where they catch public transport and we are still doing that,” Mandivheyi said.

However, when the country was under level one lockdown, some hospitals requested that we do door-to-door ferrying of critical staff to minimise service disruptions.”

“Zimbabwe has over 15 000 nurses and we ferried the majority of them, but we have since reverted to the usual system. There are between 1 500 to 2 000 doctors in the country and we ferry them to work and their homes.”

Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union secretary-general Douglas Chikobvu, confirmed the development yesterday.

”It never rains but pours for nurses who have been enjoying the VAYA Shuttle but just from the blue a message of pain and misery emerged without any prior notice. No one had even budgeted for transport since we have been in safe mode, to and from workplace as we nicely and tirelessly worked to thwart COVID-19,” he said.

“Unfortunately, a WhatsApp chat on all VAYA nurses platforms shuttered the morale of nurses who are now busy thinking how they will go to work in an environment where Zupco services are erratic and we are worried our fellow nurses will fall into hands of thieves and other abusers along their way home. The latest arrangement is a sterile makeshift arrangement without basis and lacks logic. How can they offer to ferry nurses a 1,5km drive while neglecting the thorny 10 plus kilometres nurses will come from to link to work. If the VAYA is feeling the heat, let them stop servicing nurses forthwith as their approach will diffuse nurses labour movements as we pursue sustainable means and ways to our welfare. We say VAYA bye, you came to subdue the chorus of nurses at a time when we were loaded to rise up and tell the employer the tune for a living wage and better working conditions,” he said.

Chikobvu said so far nurses in Gweru and Mutare had received the notices of withdrawal of the transport facility.
This development could trigger a crippling strike by nurses.

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