Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gov't considers ferrying doctor, nurses to work

DESPERATE government of President Robert Mugabe, stung by criticism of running down the once prosperous southern African state, is considering providing medical personnel with transport as junior doctors and nurses are just staying at home, citing increasing transport costs and skyrocketing cost of living.,,,

The tuberculosis (TB) ward at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital, has been shut down as there are no enough nurses and doctors and those that are there are attending to less critical cases. They are overwhelmed with work as their colleagues who are leaving, are not being replaced.

The learning institutions in the country are not churning out enough health professionals to plug the holes left by those who are leaving.

Since 2000, Zimbabwe has been losing an average of 20 percent health professionals every year. The country’s five main hospitals have been losing 24 senior nurses and three doctors every month.

In 2002, Britain alone issued 2 346 work permits to nurses from Zimbabwe and more have been granted such permits every year up to last year.

As a result of the "stayaway", all patients are being referred to Wilkins Clinic, another health centre also affected.

The senior nurses and doctors, whose homes are in the vicinity of the hospital are overwhelmed by the influx of sick people as the facilities there were meant for a stipulated number of patients.

At Harare Hospital yesterday, most wards were closed, including medical ones, as medical personnel are just staying at home. Critical cases were being transferred to Parirenyatwa Hospital, where the few senior doctors and interns are struggling to cope.

The government has been awarding civil servants piece-meal increments that are not in tandem with the cost of living.

Most civil servants, after the recent pay hikes, are earning an average of $1 million a month, a figure below the poverty datum line. Poverty datum line is officially pegged at $1,7 million. However, independent analysts put it well above $10 million.

Transport costs up to $30 000 a trip to suburbs in Harare. Cheap lunch costs $60 000 and it costs an average of $200 000 a room a month in high density areas. Yet some hospital workers such as cleaners and kitchen staff are earning as low as $250 000 a month, an amount not enough to buy a 50kg bag of mealie-meal.

Most patients, struggling to make ends meets cannot afford to go to privately-run hospitals where a figure of up to $60 million is required before admission. Even those under medical aid cover, are struggling to meet the shortfalls.

"Now, where do we go?" asked a dejected Ellen Makwara, whose son was writhing in agony outside Harare Hospital. "He is not under medical aid cover and private doctors will not treat him. Even n'angas (witchdoctors) demand money."

The government, has reacted to the crisis by sending army medics but they, too, are overwhelmed with work as many places have been vacant. Doctors and nurses are laving in droves every day to regional countries and overseas where life is better.....

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