Zimbabwe senior doctors protest against collapse of public health system


Senior doctors at Zimbabwe’s public hospitals on Wednesday marched through the streets of the capital Harare protesting against the deterioration of the country’s public health system.

The doctors were joined by their junior counterparts, starting their march from the country’s biggest referral hospital Parirenyatwa in Harare to the Parliament building where they submitted a petition.

After the prolonged strike by junior doctors since September, the senior doctors had remained providing emergency health care services to patients until last week when they also joined the strike due to poor salaries and working conditions.

In the petition, the doctors lamented the collapse of the country’s public health care system, noting that the absence of health staff, basic drugs and equipment at government-owned hospitals had severely compromised the delivery of essential health care services to the majority of Zimbabweans.

“We are marching to express our dissatisfaction with the state of our health care system and are seeking for the restoration of the health care system of our country,” said vice president of the Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association, Raphael Makota.

“Zimbabwean public hospitals have not been functioning well since March this year and things have come to a standstill in the last three months. Hospitals have run out of essential drugs and sundries and a lot of essential hospital equipment has either broken down or need urgent repair or replacement,” he added.

Makota said basic requirements such as syringes and bandages were now hard to come by in hospitals, noting that the hospitals had now turned into a dangerous place for patients.

“The hospital environment has now become unsafe for both patients and doctors alike. Important hospital equipment such as theatre monitors and suction machines have broken down,” he said while reading the petition.

He said major public hospitals had reduced the number of critical beds, causing avoidable loss of life.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals had reduced the number of its adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds from nine to three; Harare Hospital from 10 to 2 while the two major hospitals in the second city of Bulawayo now had only three such beds operating, he said.

“This has drastically reduced the number of operations that can be done”.

Makota said erratic water supplies in the hospitals had also resulted in doctors resorting to the bucket system when preparing to carry out operations, a practice he said was associated with very high rates of infection post-operations.

The doctors also complained that the current arrangement where government allowed nurses and other supporting staff to work for two or three days per week was affecting their work as they cannot work without nurses.

“The doctors must be capacitated to return to work in a standard shift system that promotes good patient care. The flexible working system in the way it is being implement kills patients,” he said.

The doctors thanked President Emmerson Mnangagwa for the moratorium offered to the fired junior doctors last week, and urged the ministry of health to expedite dialogue between the doctors and government to resolve the impasse. Enditem

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