Health sector paralysis: Nation edging towards a cliff

RECENT revelations that Harare Central Hospital has run out of the most basic drugs indicate that the once colossal nation, which has staggered like the proverbial giant from systematic institutional abuse, is about to fall face down, having bled on its knees all the while.

Source: Health sector paralysis: Nation edging towards a cliff – NewsDay Zimbabwe October 4, 2016

guest column: LEARNMORE ZUZE

Surely, when critical drugs such as the injectable morphine and pethidine are in short supply, it can only point to one thing: disaster.

These drugs are critical and it really befuddles the mind how such a large institution continues to operate under the circumstances.

Add to that, there is the grave resultant issue arising from placing of elective surgeries in abeyance because of shortage of these drugs. Lives are being lost.

Suspending surgeries in a country where the majority of impoverished Zimbabweans rely on public hospitals simply translates to a condemnation of the poor.

This is unfortunately what has become of a country that — only a decade and a half ago — had hospitals, even rural clinics, teeming with an assortment of drugs.

Honestly speaking, the current state of affairs, coming in the face of a profligate life, seen through massive spending on air travel, betrays a leadership lost on conscience and reality on the ground.

Leaders are elected to serve and not to self-serve. We certainly have a catastrophe in the making, if this situation is not remedied as a matter of urgency.

It is a given that the majority of Zimbabweans, saddled with the burden of making a living, cannot afford the “luxury” of private hospitals, where these drugs would be available.

In fact, the majority of people fall short of affording basic medical requirements in government institutions and it is scornful to ask them to go to private hospitals.

The government, by failing to address this problem timeously, is denying its very people a basic constitutional right and making the right to health a preserve of the rich.

For a long time, the Zimbabwean government has, ostensibly, decried underfunding for the shortage of these vital drugs.

It is mind-defying that national budget allocations, to such critical areas as the health sector, have continued on the descent, while individual ventures have been allocated hefty amounts.

I don’t know how government justifies a situation where the President’s Office has a proportionally bigger budget than things pertaining to health.

One even wonders why we should even be talking of an underfunded health sector, instead of using the proper term namely, skewed priorities.

The question should rather be: Is it really about underfunding or mislaid priorities?

The amounts blown on the endless foreign trips would, no doubt, go a long way towards easing drug shortages.

There is a fine line between disinclination towards funding a ministry and misplaced priorities.

How does the government explain that millions are spent on air travel in a country without pethidine in major referral hospitals?

How does government explain these drug shortages against a background of splurging on costly vehicles such as the one bought for the current chief executive officer of the hospital in question?

A spade should be called by its name; there is no underfunding to talk about, but palpable reluctance to give the health sector the critical place it deserves.

It is sad that a government, that should be functional and delivering on its promises, has to rely on donors.

Donors should, under normal circumstances, aid government’s initiative and not vice-versa.

A government cannot heap its burden on the shoulders of the donor community, as is currently happening. This is dereliction of duty.
It’s time that the government got its priorities right and put the health of its people first.

That we have a whole nation getting hungrier by the day and a leadership oblivious to the crisis indicates that Zimbabwe, as a country, gravely requires fresh solutions.

Slowly, the country is reverting back to the 2008 crisis.

And Zimbabweans are now weary of crisis; they have seen it all in the last 16 years.

Bank queues have come back and none needs to be reminded of the sight of scores sleeping outside banks.

Surely, how can a country battle “ancient” diseases such as typhoid and cholera in this age?

Furthermore, water, a basic of basics, has become something of a treasure, which requires that women move from place to place, even to the extent of fetching it from unprotected sources.

In a functional economy, these problems should be readily solved, but how do we solve a single crisis in a country hit by crisis after crisis?

From the liquidity crunch, industrial collapse, unemployment, looming diseases to the coming bond notes, one wonders where to start from.

The worst part is that we have a leadership obstinately obsessed with power, thinking no one else can steer the country out of its current problems.

Something, at the end of it all, has to give. These crises cannot continue, otherwise this nation has reached the edge of a cliff.