Editorial Comment: Allocate resources to lure health professionals

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Dr Parirenyatwa

ZIMBABWE has since independence in 1980 made get strides in bringing services closer to the people through building schools, clinics, hospitals, government offices and other such infrastructure. The target was to ensure that public institutions providing services are within walking distance in both the urban and rural areas.

It cannot be disputed today that most schools in both rural and urban areas are within walking distance except in resettlement areas where pupils are still walking long distances to school. Government has also built clinics and rural service centres throughout the country and is almost through with its programme of building at least a provincial hospital for each of the country’s provinces.

This remarkable achievement in providing the necessary facilities has however, not been matched by adequate staffing. The hardest hit is the health sector where nearly half of the posts for specialist medical personnel at public health institutions are reported to be vacant.

This has been blamed largely to the failure by Government to offer attractive conditions of service which has seen an exodus of these specialists to seek greener pastures outside the country.

According to statistics compiled by a local consulting group, as of July this year 470 specialist posts from an establishment of 1 117 were vacant. The company said there were only seven specialist doctors at major referral hospitals out of an establishment of 26.

The staff complement at provincial hospitals was even worse with only four specialists employed by the hospitals out of the required 140. Nearly half of the posts for Government Medical Officers (GMOs) are said to be vacant with only 105 employed at referral hospitals. There are several posts vacant for laboratory technicians, laboratory scientists and middle level doctors.

Commenting on the statistics, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said the unfilled posts could be higher than those released by the company. He said the establishments that are being used at the moment were compiled in the 1980s yet the health sector has expanded over the years.

Dr Parirenyatwa said there was need to invest in the health sector in order to lure back skilled and experienced personnel into the Public Service. The billions of dollars Government spent building clinics, rural service centres and hospitals throughout the country will go to waste as long as these institutions fail to provide the required services due to shortage of skilled and experienced  personnel.

The late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo should be turning in his grave as more Zimbabweans seek specialist medical services outside the country, a situation he was very opposed to. Dr Nkomo was the brains behind the construction of the 200-bed Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo which is supposed to provide specialist medical services.

The hospital which only operated briefly in 2004, is yet to re-open.  The shortage of specialist doctors is of grave concern and should therefore be addressed urgently.  There are also reports that the establishment of nurses has not been reviewed for a long time despite the increased workload.

The establishment of nurses is about 25 000 yet the public health institutions require 50 000. The nurses are as a result overworked thereby compromising on quality and efficiency of healthcare.

We want to once again implore Government to prioritise the allocation of additional resources to the health sector to enable it to lure back professionals as well as engage nurses that are graduating every year from our training schools. Zimbabwe cannot continue to be a training ground for other countries that are benefiting immensely from our manpower training programmes.

Many of our graduates leave the country soon after graduation because the country is failing to employ them. We have done a lot in providing the facilities and our focus now should be on retaining and luring back the skilled and experienced health personnel.

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