• 15 Apr, 2024
  • United Zimbabwe Alliance

Shortage of Medical Staff

The healthcare system inherited by Zimbabwe from the colonial regime was initially robust, though it was primarily designed to serve the needs of the minority white community. In the early years of independence, the government made significant strides, including the construction of clinics, establishment of community health workers, and implementation of policies such as “health for all by 2000”. These efforts led to improved access to healthcare services for black Zimbabweans. However, over time, the government struggled to sustain these standards. Critical issues emerged, including a failure to invest in infrastructure maintenance and the construction of central hospitals. As a result, the initial gains in healthcare access and quality gradually eroded, highlighting systemic challenges in maintaining and expanding healthcare services nationwide.

This decline in the healthcare system also led to a significant brain drain, with Zimbabwe losing many of its skilled health professionals to the diaspora, as citizens sought opportunities in more stable economies in Africa and abroad. The circumstances at home, characterized by persistent economic challenges, continue to drive thousands of health professionals to seek employment abroad, resulting in a severe shortage of skilled personnel in the country's healthcare system.

Several factors have contributed to this trend, particularly the dilapidated state of the health delivery system and the miserable compensation received by health professionals. Zimbabwe’s hospitals do not have the first line of defence such as bandages. The declining value of the local currency and the rising cost of living exacerbate the situation, leaving workers with salaries that are insufficient to meet their basic needs. Despite calls for action, the government has failed to address this critical issue, forcing many health workers to seek employment opportunities overseas.

The working conditions within the public health sector are another significant concern, with health workers facing challenges such as a lack of essential equipment and medicines in hospitals. Additionally, the shortage of personal protective equipment poses serious risks to the safety of health workers, especially from communicable diseases such as the COVID-19, tuberculosis and cholera. The exodus of workers from the public health sector has resulted in understaffing and increased workloads, compromising the quality of patient care and adding to the stress experienced by workers. It is imperative that we prioritize creating a safe and supportive working environment to retain our healthcare workforce and ensure the delivery of quality healthcare services.

Furthermore, the crisis in the health industry is exacerbated by political interference, as government actions have often hindered efforts to address sector challenges. Health professionals have faced criticism and threats from authorities, including attempts to criminalize workforce migration and limitations on their ability to engage in industrial action. As UZA, we advocate for constructive engagement with citizens and stakeholders to develop viable solutions to the challenges facing the health sector, rather than resorting to punitive measures.

In examining this entire situation, we cannot overlook the profound impact of underfunding, which has effectively paralyzed our healthcare system. It is from this fundamental issue that these persistent shortages stem. Without a sufficient allocation of resources from the government, the health sector will continue to grapple with these challenges. We implore for a resolute commitment to prioritize the healthcare sector in treasury allocations, recognizing its vital importance to the well-being of our nation. Furthermore, fostering partnerships and collaborative efforts will be instrumental in addressing these systemic issues and ensuring the delivery of quality healthcare services to all citizens.

As United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA), we recognize the urgent need for the government to implement two critical interventions. First, it must build a vibrant, well-equipped, and universally accessible health delivery system. Second, it must implement a competitive compensation plan and other incentives to attract and retain skilled health workers. By prioritizing the well-being of our healthcare professionals, we align with the principles outlined in the Public Health Act. This ensures the sustainability and enhancement of healthcare delivery for all Zimbabweans. Furthermore, UZA underscores the importance of fostering constructive dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders to develop sustainable solutions that will fortify the healthcare system and ensure the well-being of all Zimbabweans. By collectively addressing these challenges, we can forge a path toward a resilient and prosperous future for our nation. We remain steadfast in our commitment to address the pressing issues confronting the nation's healthcare sector.