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Zimbabwean doctors killed over a thousand people in one month of December?

28 Dec 2018 at 09:39hrs | Views
My father once told me that a man who does not sleep at home will never buy a bed for his home. This might just be true when applied to politicians on the continent seeking medical help anywhere but home. Zimbabwe is facing the worst year of its post independence life. The economy is resisting adjustment and people are being squeezed to death. Life is not what it is used to be. Sharp comparisons are being put with the former and the results are not good.  

Africa's public health systems are in a depressing condition. Preventable diseases still kill a large number of women and children, people travel long distances to receive health care, and across the country patients sleep on hospital floors. On top of this, Zimbabwe's health professionals emigrate in droves to search for greener pastures. The country is literally bleeding. The wells of milk and honey are now infected with blood sweat and tears.

Our doctors have traded their oaths for money. They see money in every sick person it is no longer a call of duty. The health system is seriously wounded.

In this health jungle and death trap called health care our leaders fly abroad for treatment. Even for a mere headache or just a little scratch under the feet.  

Most of them could have gotten exceptional care at a centre of excellence here in Zimbabwe itself. Why then did they go abroad? Our health system is in the Intensive care unity and we can not simply be praise singers. The truth must be said. Thousands of people have died during the strike by doctors. Ministers are busy showing expired drugs donated from india. Does one wonder why India donates more medication and it does not receive any donation itself as a matter of policy. Because they know that donors always mean to dump their excess junk. Africa has been selected to be a junk yard and as a result its leaders abandon their hospitals and invest millions in other countries.

It's therefore not surprising that people from Africa travel abroad – mainly to Europe, North America and Asia – for their medical needs. In 2016-2018 Africans spent over USD 118 billion on outbound treatment. Zimbabwe is a major contributor. Its citizens spend over USD$1 billion annually on what's become known as medical tourism.

It can be argued that private citizens opting to seek medical help in other countries don't owe the public any explanation, because it's their own affair. But medical tourism among political elite is a completely different pot of fish and a big cause for concern, because they are responsible for the development of proper health care for the citizens of their countries.

It's well documented that politicians from across the continent go abroad for medical treatment. The reasons for exercising this choice are obvious: they lack confidence in the health systems they oversee, and they can afford the trips given that the expenses are paid for by taxpayers.

The result is that they have little motivation to change the status quo. Medical tourism by African leaders and politicians could therefore be one of the salient but overlooked causes.

Our health system will never be improved at all if our leaders sit to play politics with the concerns of the doctors. They can mess the doctor's as much as possible and then fly abroad for treatment. These leaders assume that healthcare abroad is excellent. A study from the United States had shown that doctors who trained in countries like Zimbabwe seemed to provide better medical care compared to US-trained physicians. Most experts would agree that the care one receives abroad is similar to that you get in Zimbabwe. Needless to say, the care that could be provided at a Zimbabwean facility will be substantially cheaper compared to that given in the West.

Second, we love our privacy. But we dislike the privacy of another person. People who are in positions of influence and power do not like to have it curtailed. Public knowledge of the health details of our leaders may result in alternate power centres, which we can all agree is not good for a democratic nation. Western countries have excellent means of protecting patient privacy. Even if a breach of privacy happens, there are mechanisms to identify the culprit. Once identified, the punishment is quick and severe. It is not difficult for us to implement that patient privacy protection here. But with the precedence set by ministers themselves sharing names and details of opposition people who sought care , it is obvious that privacy protection is not a public health priority in Zimbabwe.

Third, it appears that the medical care for most of our leaders abroad is funded by taxpayers' money, although there is little transparency about who foots these bills. The government reportedly spends millions annually on medical expenses of sitting and former leaders. Our leaders should get the best care possible. There are no two ways about that. And, there is no question that the best care can be given within the nation at much cheaper rates. Hence, there really is no reason for taxpayers' money to be spent at a foreign institution. Sadly, it is testament to the poor state of our public sector institutions that our leaders seek care abroad.
While many on social media have argued that politicians should be banned from seeking care abroad using public funds, but I think it would not be a good exercise. Instead, we should replicate the model of the United States where the President of the nation gets his care at the armed forces' hospital. We should equip our armed force hospitals across the country with the best doctors and equipment and insist that if our leaders require expert care, they can obtain it there. If they were to still seek care abroad, they can do so at their own expense.

Doing this will serve three purposes – one, it will boost our healthcare system incredibly. Two, it will keep the costs affordable. Finally, it will help protect our national interests.

The best medical care for our leaders is our responsibility. They spend their active years in the service of our country. It is imperative that we take great care of them. And there is nothing better than getting excellent medical care in Zimbabwe itself than travelling long distances and adjusting to new systems to get medical care.
The doctors on strike are simply saying the Medical care in Zimbabwe is garbage. Post-operative care is poor -- the whole notion of coordinated care once you enter the hospital is a pipe dream for wealthy. Even they can hog all the attention and resources only up to a point. What's worse is that you've got very skilled surgeons who do a very good job only to lose their patient due to poor post-operative care. The elite in Zimbabwe know this -- this is exactly why they head to SA because they know that they will get an holistic and realistic medical opinion, be properly prepared for what awaits them, and get the coordinated care including post-operative care that gives them the best odds of survival.

Zimbabwe has misunderstood the reasons for the Doctor's strike. The doctors are simply saying can we have better working conditions. Can our working stations be equipped with just basic  things  like gloves for general hygiene. Can we have up to date and on date medication. Shall we stop playing politics with people's lives. Can Zimbabwe be a jewel again.

Government has not told the nation the extent of the effects of this strike. Thousands of people have died due to neglect. Thousands more are still dying.

Hospitals are not having basic pain killers like paracetamol. As we speak now medication is sold strictly on US dollar and not bond. Government has failed to reign in the pharmacies.

One leader gets an itchy scalp he flies to UK to have it scratched and the nation queues for one paracetamol for 30 US dollars.
This is not politics. This is real life people's lives.

Our health system must be our priority.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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