BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
HEALTH stakeholders have called on local authorities to urgently devise strategies to plug the massive brain drain at their clinics in order to restore sanity in the public health system.
Most council-run clinics in different parts of the country continue to battle severe staff shortages.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the situation was threatening to cripple the primary healthcare delivery services in the country.
“The achievement of universal health coverage will remain a mirage and a pipe dream for the people of Zimbabwe if we do not value our health workers, or if we do not invest and prioritise primary healthcare services in the country,” Rusike said.
“All health stakeholders must help to rebuild the health delivery system by allocating adequate resources to primary healthcare services. The central government should immediately disburse health grants to local authorities in order to cushion council clinics from the harsh economic environment as this was last done more than a decade ago,” he said.
Rusike said with insufficient funding to council clinics and failure to remunerate health workers, primary healthcare services face collapse and Zimbabwe will fail to achieve universal health coverage.
Health workers, mostly nurses, continue to resign en masse as they leave for greener pastures.
Speaking on the proposal to take over health workers from urban local authorities by government, Rusike said there should be wide consultations with the affected health workers as most of them left their employment in central government hospitals to join council clinics because of better conditions of service at the time.
Citizens Health Watch trustee Fungisayi Dube said: “The exodus needs to be arrested to stop the impending catastrophe. Our health monitoring activities have revealed serious and untenable staff shortages which is compromising the quality of healthcare service provision. We call for a stakeholders meeting to discuss the health staff situation in the country.”
Dube said the situation was even worse in rural areas where in some cases the health facilities were manned by one person.
“Most healthcare personnel is leaving the country for greener pastures, and we need to find a way of dealing with this,” she said
Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said they had responded to the crisis by reopening all clinics.
“We recruited locum nurses and we also recalled nurses who were on leave,” he said, adding that all 40 council health centres and two hospitals were functional.