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A critical review of Zimbabwe’s health sector today

18 Nov 2019 at 13:02hrs | Views
This morning I woke up to a headline in the Herald reporting a visit by the First Lady to a Mbare based traditional midwife celebrating the achievements by the midwife. And juxtapose that to the situation that for more than 2 months now doctors in Zimbabwe have been on strike and there appears to be no end in sight. The doctors have declared incapacitation. All public hospitals have shut down. The Health Service Board is conducting "hearings" and firing doctors. Citizens are dying. Doctors and nurses are looking for opportunities to leave the country. Doctors in training have failed to continue with their studies. As a trained and practicing doctor my heart sank? How did we get here and why are we here?


The salaries are simply not enough. Doctors are earning 2000rtgs dollars and that is the equivalent of 100usd.This is simply nothing and no sane employee (let alone a doctor) must be made to work and accept such peanuts. The Health Service Board has refused to acknowledge this and this is where the biggest issue lies. They know it's not enough and not acceptable but they will not acknowledge simply because they are serving their appointing authority. The result of this has been the suffering of ordinary citizens in Zimbabwe who require medical services.


There are not enough medicines and sundries in the hospitals. Even before the strike most patients had to go and buy basic commodities like betadine, bandages and even blades at hospitals like Parirenyatwa .This forces patients to fork out more money having already used a lot in transport and other needs. Again the Ministry has denied this reality and countless times the Ministry has shown pictures with boxes of condoms from National Pharmaceuticals as stocks of medicines. This is sad as our people deserve better. District hospitals have no fuel to pick patients from clinics and transfer them. Electricity is in short supply and the generators installed can't run either. Most district hospitals have no medicines for hypertension or diabetes.


Most of the equipment such as blood pressure machines is down in hospitals .Parirenyatwa had to cut down on surgeries because the equipment in the recovery rooms was broken down. This has severely compromised quality and quantity of services. Most district hospitals are failing to offer basic services


Without appropriate equipment such as urine bags, nasogastric tubes, sharps boxes for used injectable and transport for night staff our hospitals have become unsafe places. Without appropriate medicines for our psychiatric patients the hospital wards have become dangerous workplaces


Staffing remains critical. Having nurses to work for 2 to 3 days a week has put a huge strain on an already burdened workforce. Nurse to patient ratio has been significantly affected.

Private Sector

There is little joy as well because of the rising prices and failure by medical funders such as PSMAS to pay for services provided.

The Diagnosis

The health sector is sick ladies and gentlemen and we are suffering from a lack of leadership. We are in the intensive unit. I hold the Minister of Health and the Health Service Board accountable for this. Minister Moyo must stop lying and come out in the open (inorder to get support from the international community), acknowledge this problem and get the system working again. Instead of offering Sadza and Zupco he must offer a living wage. I am not a slave and I will not work for no pay. There is no logic in giving me food, transporting me to work and then refusing to pay me. That's slavery. Is he also going to offer government landlords who offer accommodation for free?  But my issues go beyond that. He has been talking about super specialty hospitals, bringing in surgeons from India, bringing in supplies etc. and all that has been lies. Either he is removed far from reality or he is pretending to be.

What is the challenge with our own doctors in Zimbabwe? Do we not have world renowned neurosurgeons like Professor Kazadi Kalangu, Physicians like Dr Hakim, rising orthopedic surgeons like Mr Akimu Mageza, Mr Robert Mangwiro (who was the best surgical trainee in the whole Eastern and Sothern Africa region in 2018).Don't we have elite surgeons like Professor Muguti, Mr Bothwell Mbuwayesango? Do we not have educated and excellent nurses like Dr Lilian Dodzo? Where are your priorities Hon Minister Moyo? Why can't you capacitate these doctors and nurses to do open heart surgeries here in Zimbabwe? Hip and knee replacements etc. They have the skills. All they need is a living wage, supplies, equipment and a safe working environment. Can you explain to Zimbabweans the logic in spending money holding disciplinary hearings for junior doctors who are asking for a living wage?

Are you not aware that in the last 6 months rentals have increased? Are you not aware that fuel has increased (I can share with you the weekly ZERA fuel updates Minister in case you missed them).Bread too.

Health is a human right and our people deserve better. Our people deserve to know the truth too. Primary care must work in Zimbabwe. I call upon the international community (WHO, UNICEF), civic society and citizens to join hands together and save our health sector from the intensive care unit. Our people are dying and as doctors we are ready to go back to work. Hospitals must be staffed and equipped. Our healthcare staff must by remunerated appropriately. I challenge Minister Moyo to come out in the open and face these challenges head on. No lies anymore. Enough is enough .Taneta. If he can't do this then he must do the honorable and resign. If he doesn't then the natural will happen. The young doctors of this country will take responsibility and save the health sector. This is not a threat but a promise.

Source - Dr Togarepi Mawoyo
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