The newly appointed Health Minister Dr Constatino Chiwenga faces an uphill task to fix the country’s health sector which is marred with a myriad of problems ranging from industrial actions and shortages of medicines and equipment.
Dr Chiwenga was appointed to stabilize, restructure and reform the national health care system to cope up with the Covid 19 pandemic which has so far claimed 122 lives and affected 4 893 people in the country according to the latest update from the Ministry of Health.
His appointment comes at a time where some nurses in public health institutions have been on strike for over 50 days due to poor remuneration and lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) at hospitals which has increased their exposure to coronavirus.
On 10 August, the Chronicle reported that over 480 healthcare workers have contracted the virus in Zimbabwe. This can be attributed to the shortages of protective clothing which is reportedly rife at the country’s health institutions.
The public health sector is also marred with shortages of medicines and equipment and this has compromised the quality of health care services offered at state hospitals.
People are now forced to seek medical assistance from private hospitals and clinics at expensive costs, making it hard for the majority of citizens to afford quality health care.
Patients are reportedly being turned away from public hospitals as there are few nurses to attend them. Doctors are also not operating at full capacity as they share the same grievances as those of nurses. The HSB tried to force nurses back to work by withholding the salaries of those who were on strike for the month of July. But nurses have vowed to continue with their industrial action until their grievances are addressed.
The problems in the health sector also stretch to the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) where reports of cartels withholding and stealing medicines are also rife.
The country’s procurer and distributor of medicines and health commodities to public hospitals has been riddled by reports of rampant corruption involving tender scams and leakages of stockpiled medicines.
These issues are compromising the supply and distribution of medicines in hospitals.
All these problems now fall on Dr Chiwenga’s feet for him to address. The minister is yet to make an official statement on how he intends to restore the country’s healthcare sector to its former glory, Although ZBC News reported yesterday that Dr Chiwenga said his mandate will see the government restructuring the country’s Health sector to improve service delivery by establishing rural care facilities and hospitals.
He also told the state broadcaster that his office will be working together with the Health Services Board (HSB) and the Ministry of Finance to see that what happened before will not be repeated.
Dr Chiwenga is faced with a huge task to bring an end to this impasse between health workers and the ministry which is affecting a lot of citizens, especially now when the country is facing a spike in Covid 19 cases.
The health minister also faces a huge task to mobilise funds and resources in order to equip public hospitals with adequate medicines and facilities for them to offer quality health care services.
He also need to address issues of corruption at NatPharm to improve the supply of medicines in hospitals. D