By Paidashe Mandivengerei
FOUR of Zimbabwe’s five central hospitals are operating below half their normal capacity following a crippling strike that has gone on for more than three months by junior doctors, government has said.
Only Chitungwiza central hospital is operating at above 39% capacity.
In September, junior doctors downed tools demanding better salaries and equipment within the country’s public medical facilities.
While over 400 have since been dismissed from work for taking part in what Zimbabwe’s labour court dismissed as an illegal strike, a paltry 46 have been allowed to resume duty by government but they barely cover the gap as the doctor to patient ratio remains severely strained.
The country’s referral hospitals, Mpilo, Parirenyatwa, United Bulawayo Hospital, Harare Central and Chitungwiza Central offer no meaningful service now, leaving the general public which cannot afford private medical services stranded.
Senior doctors who had remained at work offering emergency services joined the strike two weeks back.
Patients are being turned away from hospitals and those admitted have since been discharged.
In a ministerial statement on the status of the country’s health care sector, Health Minister, Obadiah Moyo admitted funds released by Treasury towards drug supplies was not enough.
“The withdrawal of labour by initially our junior doctors and subsequently joined by senior doctors has had a negative impact on the health delivery system.
“In this situation, our major referral institutions, the central hospitals are the most affected as they are operating below capacity with Chitungwiza Central Hospital being the only one operating at above 39% capacity.
“It is therefore no doubt that most of our patients are having to go elsewhere and seek assistance elsewhere and they cannot go to the private hospitals, all of them, where exorbitant prices are charged.
“There is minimal health care provision in our public health institutions being rendered by the various health care workers who themselves did not participate in the withdrawal of labour as with the doctors.
“Government is thankful to these other workers including those doctors who are still offering these services.
“The procurement processes are proceeding, and Treasury has availed some foreign currency, although it is not enough.”