Operations at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), the country’s largest referral hospital and other provincial hospitals have ground to a complete halt as more than 200 nurses have been dismissed with immediate effect for getting involved in the recent strike action.
The dismisal of the nurses left all the wards, including critical ones such as ICU and operation theatres unmanned thereby adding more suffering to the deserted patients.
UTH Managing Director Lackson Kasonka confirmed yesterday that he had been instructed by Public Service Management Division (PSMD) to originate dismissal letters to all the nurses who participated in the strike last month including theatre nurses, midwives and general nurses.
“They were given up to Friday 16:00hrs to write exculpatory letters as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against them and a few of them responded and those are working,” he said.
The letters signed by Kasonka stated that the nurses had been dismissed from the civil service for participating in an illegal action contrary to the provisions of the Public Service Commission Disciplinary Code and Procedures for handling offences in Public Service no. 12(a) and 21(a)(v) and the Terms and Conditions of Service of the Public Service no. 60.
The Ministry of Health through the PSMD has also dismissed all the nurses in provincial and general hospitals around the country for participating in the two-week long strike described as illegal by the government.
The action has paralysed operations at the largest health institution and others in the country resulting in the closure of operation theatres because there were no nurses in the hospitals.
Some hospital workers complained that the situation was overwhelming for matrons and sisters-in-charge who could not run the various departments on their own as they were only being assisted by student nurses.
A source at the facility explained that there were no nurses working in the labour ward, and the matron was overwhelmed to attend to all the patients without any nurses on duty.
And the nurses complained that despite their decision to call off the strike on Sunday, government went ahead and fired them even when they were already at work.
Some affected nurses explained that they had been fired despite having reported for work on Sunday evening.
“I worked throughout the night on Sunday only to be handed a dismissal letter on Monday stating that I am fired. Anyway, I just hope they can manage to give us all our terminal benefits because they have decided to take this action,” she said.
And another nurse described the situation as bad as most of the nurses were pivotal to the operations of various departments and wondered how government would manage health operations without the presence of such a huge number of nurses in an already understaffed sector.