BY MOSES MATENGA
HARARE City Council is resisting attempts by the government to take over its health service operations and place them under the Health and Child Care ministry led by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.
In October, government ordered councils to hand over their health facilities and services, citing poor remuneration of workers that had led to massive brain drain as nurses have been leaving in search of greener pastures outside the country.
But the Harare City Council has come out guns blazing, and has since taken legal action, warning government of dire consequences if it goes ahead with the takeover.
The city has also written to Local Government minister July Moyo to deal with the matter and engage the Health and Child Care ministry officials to stop the takeover.
“There was, therefore, a need for adequate consultation with the residents on whether they were willing to hand over their health infrastructure to the government for national use,” recent council minutes read in part.
“Further to that, health services employees in council had already lodged a legal challenge to the Cabinet decision and council needed legal advice on the way forward.
“The committee noted that central government was mandated by the Constitution of Zimbabwe to provide a health grant for 50% of local authorities’ annual operational costs on health. However, this grant had stopped coming for more than 20 years to date.
“Globally, modern-day cities had health departments that constantly updated and advised council on obtaining health trends and new public health threats, and if the city eventually lost the health services department, it would be impossible for effective policy planning on health to prevail in council. That would consequently make it difficult or impossible for the city to effectively respond and prepare for the ever-present public health threats.”
Council officials said a meeting was recently held at Makombe building, where government insisted that it was a Cabinet directive and that council was accused of refusing to implement the directive.
Council said some of the health financing challenges being faced by the department of health services were a result of central government reneging on its obligations to provide a health grant to the city for the past 15 years.
It also emerged that the council was paying its healthcare workers more than what government is paying, while most of the council staff had left for greener pastures outside the country.