via Health horror: Part 2 – DailyNews Live by Thelma Chikwanha 18 SEPTEMBER 2013
Harare Central Hospital, also known as KuGomo because of its location in a rugged terrain of Southerton suburb in Harare, is one of the biggest referral hospitals in the country but is dismally failing to deliver on its mandate.
The hospital, which houses the School of Nursing, also boasts having the largest maternity referral ward in the country but is plagued by severe shortages of equipment and supplies.
The maternity wing has in excess of 180 beds and caters for about 1 200 deliveries per month and 505 pre-natal visits per month.
But the hospital is failing to cope with the number of expecting mothers who present themselves at the institution.
Last week, 15 mothers who had just given birth were crowded in one small room on the floor, exposing their newborn babies to risks of contracting communicable diseases.
This unfortunate situation however, is replicated in the other wards at the hospital. But what is really worrying is the appalling attitude of staff.
Patients, especially those in ward C4, are treated in the most despicable manner by people who have taken the Hippocratic oath, according to patients.
A senior citizen who was admitted at the ward recently said the behaviour of the nursing staff left a lot to be desired.
“The nurses there operate like Satanists,” fumed the patient, who declined to be named fearing victimisation.
“They are not interested in seeing patients regain their health. They go around stealing patients’ medicines and things like drips and food which their relatives would have acquired for them.”
She narrated how patients suffered victimisation when they asked for their medicine and food stuffs.
She blamed the hospital’s executive for what is happening at Harare hospital, saying they never moved around to inspect whether patients were being fed and treated with dignity.
“During the days when Ushewokunze (the late Herbert) was still minister of Health, he used to move around even to the extent of visiting at night to ensure that people were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing,” she recalled.
“I think we need that kind of leadership now especially considering the fact that the people who are now working in hospitals are just mercenaries.”
Rumbidzai Moyo, who was admitted in the female ward, said she survived her four-day admission by the grace of God.
Moyo, who was admitted during the winter period, said patients were only given two thin blankets.
“The windows in the wards are never closed and during the night some of the patients would start crying, saying they were cold but the nurses on duty would just ignore them,” she said.
“One night, an elderly woman who was next to me but the nurses did not even notice because they were busy watching TV.
“A woman in my ward who was also diabetic, fell from her bed and spent at least an hour on the floor in broad daylight while the nurses went about their personal business. I was really stressed because I was too weak to help her.”
Patients who spoke to the Daily News said the hospital did not even provide warm bathing water for their patients.
“They come at 5am and ask us to take a bath in cold water when it is still very cold but we have some patients who have water heaters, those are the lucky ones,” another patient who preferred anonymity said.
In the paediatric ward, the situation is pretty much the same; parents of children admitted in the ward have to bring their own heaters in order to keep their children warm.
“My child was born prematurely,” said a woman who only identified herself as Kudzai. I brought her here after she fell sick. At night, I have to wrap her up and sit with her near the heater so that she does not feel cold.” Yesterday, the Daily News was inundated with calls from readers who had been treated unfairly at Harare Central and Parirenyatwa hospitals.
A certain Georgina said she took her mother to Parirenyatwa Hospital for treatment after she had been involved in an accident and had to wait from 8am to 8pm before being attended to.
“We were also made to pay despite the fact that she is 75 and eligible for free medication in terms of government policy,” she said.
“We were also made to pay $100 for X-rays as well as all the materials used for plaster casting.”
Georgina added: “What really pains me is that we are heavily taxed and it is only fair that these taxes be used to run social service programmes that alleviate suffering of the elderly and other disadvantaged communities.”
A man who only identified himself as Paradza, a member of the Vapostori sect, accused some doctors at Harare hospital of being reluctant to treat patients, preferring to do so at their private surgeries.
“I take a good number of members from my church to the hospital when they fall ill, and I have noticed that most doctors especially those who have their own private practices do not want to treat people at public hospitals,” he said.
“So many of them have approached me to go with the people I would have escorted to their private surgery for more efficient service.”
Another caller who preferred anonymity said when he took his sick sister to Harare hospital, the doctor who examined her was very upset when he realised she was on medical aid.
“He asked us to go to Avenues Clinic but my sister insisted that she wanted to be treated there because they had good doctors, the attending physician said he would be able to attend to her at the private hospital,” he said.
Molline also called and narrated a heart-rending story of how she lost her brother after the same hospital delayed his treatment.
She said her brother, who died on July 31, had been visiting Harare hospital for three weeks after he tested positive for HIV but failed to receive treatment early.
“By the time they decided to admit him, he had become too weak and he died on the night he was admitted. What pained us the most is that he died at 12 midnight but the hospital authorities never bothered to inform us of the development.
“We only discovered that he was dead after we had gone for the 1pm visit. When we got there, the staff did not even have the courtesy of informing us that he was dead, we instead roamed around the ward looking for him only to be told by a patient that he had died,” she said.
A Mutare man also complained about the negligence of staff at Harare hospital which, he said, cost the life of his 19-year-old brother.
We also received a call from a doctor who works at one of the public health institution who said the raw deal patients were getting was a direct result of mismanagement by the top hierarchy.
“At Parirenyatwa, we have executives who have no medical background spearheading programmes and as a result output is always poor,” the medical doctor told the Daily News.
“All these executives do is enrich themselves at the expense of the institution. I understand that the budget allocated is very low, but I feel that a huge chunk of the money that is used in financing their hefty salaries and fancy cars should be channelled towards the procurement of equipment for the hospital.
“Right now I am serving my housemanship but I am not satisfied because I am not working in a fully functional hospital which is well equipped. How am I then expected to become a very competent doctor in such an environment?”
Tomorrow we look at the hospitals in Chitungwiza, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare. Don’t miss your copy of the Daily News as we continue to expose this health scandal.