Senior doctors at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals yesterday narrated to the minister of Health Obadiah Moyo, of the horrors and deaths occurring everyday at major hospitals because of acute shortages of drugs and hospital consumables.
The medical practitioners yesterday embarked on a public protest demanding government’s speedy intervention citing that the situation has forced them to scale down their services except for dire emergencies only. Moyo met the doctors at Parirenyatwa during their protest.
Raising concern on behalf of the distraught doctors Azza Mashumba, a paediatrician, wept before Moyo as she narrated how several patients had lost lives due to the lethargy from authorities in dealing with the situation. “We are coming to certify dead bodies…,” she said.
Enunciating the deteriorating situation at State hospitals Mashumba added: “I come to work, I do my very best but my outputs are still births and my outputs are disabled babies. “I have patients in the oncology ward, we start them on chemotherapy and two weeks later syringes are finished, what do we do, interrupt treatment then restart?”
So dire is the situation in public hospitals that doctors are forced to do some of the painful procedures on patients without some essential drugs due to the acute shortages. Besides being out-dated and in need of repairs, medical equipment has allegedly been operating without being serviced for years.
One doctor revealed that the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Harare Central Hospital had also been closed while another revealed that incubators at Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Ward were in need of repairs. David Chimuka, a surgeon, told the Daily News that without speedy intervention the doctors will not be able to work normally and save lives.
“We decided to only do emergency operations…which amounts to 20 percent and 80 percent are elective operations, because we are running on limited drugs and equipment,” he said. To make matters worse, the hospitals are also failing to supply doctors with gloves, syringes and bandages resulting in a health hazard with patients having to wash and re-wear bandages.
“So it’s about the theatre time, it’s about gloves, running water, consumable antibiotics, consumable pain killers, even the patients in my ward, I admit patients who can’t breathe and we need to do operations to put tracheostomy, we don’t have tracheostomy, the ones that we are using right now were donated,” said Cameline Nyamarebvu, an ear, nose and throat consultant (ENT).
A survey by the Daily News inside Parirenyatwa hospital yesterday revealed the backlog situation has spiralled out of control with seriously ill patients lying on casualty hospital beds on the passage while others were sitting on benches waiting for the doctors to attend to them.
Sadly, more ill patients continue to be hurriedly brought in through the casualty on emergency beds by relatives.The doctors also said they have a huge operating list backlog which is already booked up to June — precipitating from the junior doctors’ 40-day industrial strike.
In response, the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Thomas Zigora, said that he was aware of the challenges which according to him were precipitated by foreign currency challenges. “Sending out foreign currency is a problem and banks are unable to send foreign currency outside the country to suppliers… ,” he said.
Medicine continues to account for a big chunk of Zimbabwe’s import bill. An estimated of US$85 million is needed to procure medicines annually. The doctors, however, advised both Zigora and Moyo that instead of waiting for imports, government could simply buy medication from local suppliers who do not require US dollars.
Zigora further stated that he had previously explained to the doctors that some of the bids for a few weeks supplies had gone to tender.
“We are sick and tired of two, three weeks solutions. I lost a girl last week… there was no single working ventilator… I also lost another 18-year-old because I could not get an operating theatre and she died,” said another doctor responding to Zigora revealing that the tender process would even take up to six months and by that time many lives would have been lost.
Meanwhile, according to the doctors, Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Clinic is still yet to be rehabilitated after the fire that took place early February. “There is just no urgency, this fire happened on the second of February and yet they are painting the outside, how is that helping?
In response to the plight of the doctors, Moyo empathised and assured the doctors that government would take requisite steps to rationalise the situation. Moyo, however, brought Zigora to task questioning him about the delay in rehabilitating Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Clinic as well as making consultations to find out what the doctors urgently needed instead of waiting for tenders that required a long time.
Moyo was shocked to find out that no work had begun at the hospital yet Treasury had already released money for the rehabilitation of the maternity clinic. “Yes you mentioned issues to do with foreign currency, but I believe there are ways we can be able to speed up issues,” he said.