Farayi Machamire 11 March 2018
HARARE – The current strike by senior medical personnel at public
hospitals has seriously affected the country’s public health institutions
forcing Parirenyatwa and Harare Central hospitals to suspend a number of
services due to the absence of essential medical staff.
“The Senior Resident Medical Officers (SRMOs) have gone on industrial
action. The division of paediatrics has devised the following emergency
measures to best provide patient care in his situation. Out Patient
Department (OPD) and OI will close.
“Ward A2 casualty will close. Paediatric patients will be screened in the
main casualty. A guard to be provided to the admitting ward as staff on
duty have been threatened and abused by irate patients.
“Clinics with newly-born babies for referral to Neonatal Intensive Care
Unit (NICU) must call the NICU doctor on cover before sending. All babies
below 1 800g to be admitted directly into NICU, nurse on duty will admit
and start therapy as per war protocols until doctor on cover attends to
“Babies who require review with minor problems will be seen in the post
neonatal round only ill newborns to be admitted to NICU to wait doctor on
cover review,” the hospital said in a memorandum circulated to staff.
The situation is no different at Harare Central Hospital where a number of
wards have been closed.
Harare Central Hospital has been forced to devise an emergency plan to
attend to critical cases.
“Due to the skeleton staff available the following measures have been put
in place. C2 is closed to cold cases. OPD is closed. Casualty officers to
attend to emergencies only and admit straight to the ward with a
“Medical students to see the patients in the wards. Call rooms to be made
available. SHO (Senior House Officers) OI to participate in the emergency
roster,” Harare Central Hospital said in its address to staff regarding
the emergency measures.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) defended the strike
action by its members and said their demands were reasonable.
Doctors are demanding, among other things, an upward review of on-call
allowance, want the government to honour its word to subsidise purchase of
cars and the Health Services Board to urgently implement the agreed
vehicle duty-free framework.
“The people should know doctors are tired of being away from the hospital,
on strike over the same issues every year because the same individuals at
the ministry of Health and Child Care are always not willing to solve the
issues that matter.
“Are the people aware that their doctors use public transport to attend to
dire emergencies because they cannot afford duty on second hand vehicles
imported from Japan?
“Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that the doctors that treat the majority
of our population in rural areas only get paid $16 each month as rural
allowance? Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that the free healthcare for
expecting mothers, under 5s and over 65 is meaningless in hospitals that
have no fluids and drugs?
“Are the people of Zimbabwe aware that their government doctors get $1,50
an hour on-call allowance? For a 30-minute consultation, your doctor gets
75 cents bank transfer,” ZHDA said in a statement.
Mnangagwa’s government has so far not been able to end the myriad problems
affecting the public health institutions.
Apart from having to replace old equipment, most State hospitals and
pharmacies are struggling to stock drugs due to poor planning and failure
to access foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for the
importation of critical medicines.
Zimbabwe is relying on foreign imports for its drugs, equipment and
hospital consumables and imports over $400 million worth of basic drugs
The importation of drugs and essential medicines has been further worsened
by the troubles at the country’s biggest pharmaceutical company – CAPS
Holdings – which used to satisfy 75 percent of the country’s market.
Due to the worsening shortages of currency, hospitals have been
experiencing shortages of oxygen.
The shortage of oxygen comes as doctors are battling to contain the
outbreak of bronchiolitis which has seen a surge in the number of children
Last year, most hospitals struggled to stock critical drugs and vaccines.
Thousands of newly-born babies faced significant health risks after the
Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which prevents infants from
contracting tuberculosis (TB), was temporarily in short supply.
Newly-born babies are vaccinated with BCG to prevent them from contracting
TB, which is listed among the top six infant killers in the country.
In 2016, major referral hospitals also had to suspend many services as a
result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers – exposing how much
things had fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.
United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Harare Central Hospital were among the
major health facilities that had to suspend normal services as a result of
drug shortages, including pethidine – a synthetic compound used as a
painkiller, especially for women in labour and during caesarean
And Binga District Hospital, which is situated in one of Zimbabwe’s
poorest regions, was also forced to scale back its services as a result of
water and electricity shortages.