Nearly a third of Zimbabwe's doctors could be fired, an official said, throwing the country's already ailing public health care service into turmoil. Picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Harare - Nearly a third of Zimbabwe's doctors could be fired, an official said on Saturday, throwing the country's already ailing public health care service into turmoil.

On Friday, Zimbabwe's government fired 211 striking doctors. The doctors have been on strike since September, paralyzing state hospitals. Wards are virtually empty as patients are turned away, admitting only those on life support.

"Out of 1 601 doctors on government payroll, a total of 516 are facing dismissal," said Paulinus Sikosana of the Health Services Board, a government body charged with overseeing health care professionals.

"We have had lengthy discussions with the doctors, but they keep on making unreasonable demands forcing government to resort to disciplinary procedure," he said.

Doctors want their salaries pegged to the US dollar, a currency in use in Zimbabwe, and not the unstable Zimbabwean dollar. Hundreds of nurses have also joined the strike, demanding better wages and working conditions.

dpa