‘Parirenyatwa hospital nurses washing bandages to re-use on patients’

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

NURSES at Zimbabwe’s foremost medical institution, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, have resorted to washing bandages to dress burns on patients as health crisis at the institution deepens, plastic surgeon Doctor Faith Muchemwa revealed last week.

According to Muchemwa, so dire is the situation that cross infections including, among medical staff has become common.

“They (nurses) alternate days. They wash them (bandages), they hang them in the bathroom, they use these one today, tomorrow they take those ones which are now dry, they re-use them,” said Muchemwa.  

Muchemwa said in the last two months, patients have been dying due to re-infections and lack of bandages which are made locally and can be acquired easily.

“Emergency is always our mode, because I am in charge of a team that takes care of the burns unit.

“Every single day we admit patients. At the moment, in the burns unit, we have no bandages. These bandages are made locally; there are companies in Kwekwe (Midlands town). I can show you pictures. You go to the burns unit they wash bandages,” an emotional Muchemwa told Health Minister Obadiah Moyo during a recent emergency meeting at the hospital.

“And obviously they are not sterilised. We have seen so much infection in the burns unit because we don’t have any caps to wear.”

Muchemwa said even health workers are at risk because they do not have access to protective clothing.

“We are dealing with puss. These are open wounds and we are coming from this patient to the next patient.

“So there are lots of infections now. Patients are dying more than ever and it’s just hospital acquired infection. The doctors and nurses are also at risk because we are not protected as well from possible infections,” she said.

“We are operating once every two weeks. As plastic surgeons, our operations sometimes take two hours, sometimes three hours, we operating only two patients.”

Muchemwa added the hospital has had to turn away patients because of the desperate situation including shortages of basic consumables.

“We don’t have even betadine (antiseptic) to just clean the wounds. We don’t have pain killers you can imagine. Those nurses, their hearts are so strong and when they are washing the wounds. I just walk out helpless,” the medical doctor said.

Senior doctors at Parirenyatwa downed tools last week in protest over government failure to provide essentials for their work. Moyo promised he would look into the issue laying the blame on hospital management.