Paidamoyo Chipunza, Harare Bureau
Senior doctors who have been providing limited services and attending to emergency cases only since December have returned to work fulltime and upscaled their services to include numerous urgent other cases.
This means, the doctors will be more visible than they were in recent months in terms of service provision in public health institutions like Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Sally Mugabe (formerly Harare Central), Mpilo and Gweru General hospitals.
In cases where required drugs and sundries would be unavailable, patients would be required to purchase whatever would be needed from private pharmacies.
However, complicated surgeries and other procedures requiring sophisticated equipment remain suspended until the said equipment is made available.
Although our Harare Bureau could not immediately establish the number of senior doctors who were withdrawing their labour, the group involved middle level and consultant specialists.
The latest development followed a meeting between the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) executive and its constituency on Monday from which they agreed to “upgrade” emergency services.
The executive had initially met with Acting President Constantino Chiwenga last week on Wednesday where the Government reportedly committed to deal with the challenges bedevilling the health sector from a “holistic approach”.
This holistic approach requires provision and consistent supply of medical drugs and sundries, equipment as well as better salaries for all health workers for a complete and functional healthcare system.
In recent months, Government through Natpharm (Pvt) Ltd and other partners has been re-stocking the national drug and sundries requirements.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has also set up a technical committee mandated to coordinate the process of hospital equipment procurement.
This also comes in the wake of further commitment by Higher Life Foundation (HLF) to extend its financial assistance to alldoctors working in Government health institutions.
In a statement yesterday, HLF said this development will see senior consultant doctors getting a subsistence allowance of $10 000 and the rest of the other doctors getting $7 500 for the next six months. Senior Resident Medical Officers and Junior Resident Medical Officers will get $5 000 a month.
In a statement released after Monday’s meeting, the SHDA said following their assessment on the state of hospitals’ equipment and national drugs restocking exercise, they resolved to upscale the level of services they will be providing to patients seeking treatment from public health institutions.
“On 15 January 2020, the SHDA executive met the Acting President Honourable CDGN Chiwenga and deliberated on the issues bedevilling the health delivery system of the nation.
“The Acting President expressed his commitment to a holistic approach to handling the situation.
“In a meeting of the members of the SHDA on 20 January 2020, members agreed to upscale from only offering emergency services to include the urgent cases which could not be assisted all along based on the assessments done by their executive,” said the SHDA.
The SHDA, however, expressed concern over the “lack of commitment from the Ministry of Health and Child Care” in solving the current challenges.
It said its members’ latest decision was also triggered by the need to ease suffering by patients, who have been failing to get assistance since last year.
The SHDA also expressed concern over implementation of the nurses’ flexible working hours, which they claimed was compromising patient care hence the need to only focus on “urgent and emergency” cases to limit on admissions.
The nurses’ flexible working hours are a Government directive allowing nurses to work long hours thrice a week from 7am to 7pm.
The normal nursing shift starts from 7am to 4pm for five days a week.
Although a visit to central hospitals in Harare yesterday did not show much difference in terms of service provision, patients interviewed had hope that the senior doctors had finally agreed to return to work.
The latest decision by the senior doctors is therefore expected to see an improvement in service delivery.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) commended HLF for its further commitment to financially support all doctors and urged all of them to apply.
HLF has reopened its fellowships to all doctors including middle and consultant doctors in Government health facilities with immediate effect.
In a statement, HLF chief executive officer Mr Kennedy Mubaiwa said the latest development which will run for the next six months will see senior consultants getting a monthly subsistence allowance of $10 000 and $7 500 for other senior doctors including provincial medical directors and middle level doctors.
Junior doctors will continue getting $5 000 per month.
The applications, which were opened yesterday will close on Friday.