By Robert Tapfumaneyi
PATIENTS on anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) and pregnant mothers in some districts of Zimbabwe are battling to reach their health centres following a government ban on public transport during the current 21-day lockdown imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The decision has made community monitors worried that it will seriously affect access to primary health care by a high number of patients resulting in some HIV positive patients defaulting as they cannot easily access their medication.
Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG) said some patients on ARVs had resorted to sending one representative to collect their medication while pregnant mothers were struggling to travel to health centres for antenatal care due to distances involved in reaching their nearest health care facilities.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa banned all public transport during the lockdown, which started 2 weeks ago.
“The ban on public transport and its effect on health access to people living with HIV and those with compromised immunity who require frequent visits to health centres to obtain medication has brought new challenges following the lockdown,” CNRG said.
It said in Lupane, patients on ARVs living in Lupaka area had resorted to sending a representative to the local clinic to collect medication for a local group in their community.
“In as much as this measure is meant to decongest the health centres and minimise the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus, it reduces interaction between patients and health service providers.
“Pregnant mothers from Hwange urban, Lupane rural, and Bikita are also struggling to travel to health centres for antenatal care.
“In Arda Transau, where people travel to Mutare General Hospital for medication, there is also limited public transport and as a result, some patients with chronic conditions are defaulting on their medication.”
CNRG said in an effort to assist those in need of health care facilities, the government must consider the transport needs of those seeking non-COVID-19 healthcare services as well.
“Decentralise the distribution of medication for chronic illnesses and ART to village and ward levels and provide those on ART with three months’ supply of medication,” it said.
“Provision of medical care is a must and those infected should quickly get the necessary assistance to save lives.”