As recently as two years ago, government’s commitment to financing the country’s crumbling health system came under scrutiny as majority of people failed to access basic health facilities while political leaders were found enjoying Animal Farm-type luxury.
Then, patients admitted in public hospitals were asked to buy almost everything used on them, including blood, drips, drugs and even syringes.
The inclusive government had just been born – inheriting a collapsed health delivery system along with the obscene avarice of public officials.
Public health institutions like Harare, Parirenyatwa, Mpilo and Chitungwiza and other major hospitals around the country were in such a state of decay people admitted in those institutions had less than a 50% chance of survival.
Now, three years on, these hospitals have transformed so much it is difficult to believe they are the same ghost halls of 2009. Equipment, drugs, staff, ambulances and general order have improved incredibly.
I have been a regular visitor to Chitungwiza Central Hospital of late (a relative is admitted there) and what I have observed has made me feel very proud of Zimbabwe.
I have seen quality service delivered by a dedicated and cheerful staff in a hospital that is sparkling clean – smelling of life and not the smell of death that engulfed the sprawling institution at the inception of the inclusive government.
Credit goes to none other than the man that took up the hot seat at the helm of the largely dysfunctional Ministry of Health and Child Welfare: Dr Henry Madzorera, the Senator for Kwekwe.
A lot of hard work has been put in the process of revitalising Zimbabwe’s health delivery system. It is nonsensical to believe international rescue packages would just fall like manna from heaven on a ministry whose shepherd is fast asleep, just because the minister is from the MDC party.
Madzorera is a man whose work screams visibility, but who is publicity shy. He does the talking behind the scenes, results of which come in the form of the near-miracle transformation of health centres around the country.
No wonder he has remained Zimbabwe’s unsung angel of mercy who has found no recognition even in the end of year media grading of ministerial performers.
While many of his colleagues in government are known more for what they own – vast wealth and flashy lifestyles – Madzorera has lived a modest life, his only business being a small pharmacy in Kwekwe’s high-density of Mbizo Section 4.
Former US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee is on record saying he was shocked by local politicians’ penchant for luxury vehicles, especially Mercedes Benzes, and warned that rich nations were “really put off by Zimbabwe’s ‘beggars in Rolexes’ and that made them averse to spending their taxes on a country represented by avaricious politicians”.
The incumbent Health minister has proved his heart is on sustainable provision of health care that includes provision of essential medicines, diagnostic equipment, human resources and support towards determinants of health, like clean water and sanitation.
As Health minister, Madzorera has ignored attacks on Western donor communities by Zanu PF and President Robert Mugabe, working closely with them in order to keep Zimbabweans alive.
Madzorera acknowledges Western money has done a lot to improve health delivery at a time of severe funding problems for the government.
“There was loss of qualified staff within the ministry to effectively manage programmes, deterioration of institutional capacity for the management of programmes, deterioration of infrastructural capacity for the management of medicines and a decline in the real value of the budget allocated for the procurement of essential medicines,” Madzorera said in one of his rare interviews.
Madzorera’s ministry has received several million dollars from the Global Fund to assist Zimbabwe on the HIV front.
More support has come from the American government and the Canadian and Swedish aid agencies which have supported the Expanded Support Programme while the EGPAF (Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation) is also doing a lot.
The ministry has lobbied and received assistance from organisations like USAid for infrastructure rehabilitation at the country’s major referral hospitals and the drug supply situation has improved to levels close to 90%.
Unicef has done great things in this regard, providing primary care kits.
Madzorera has worked to put together the vital human resources retention scheme which involves providing top-up salaries to all health care workers.
The plan, he says, is to ensure that healthcare workers are remunerated at the same level as everywhere else within the Sadc region.
The Health ministry last week announced the suspension of bonding for nurses and ordered the release of 532 diplomas for registered general nurses and 529 certificates for primary care nurses trained since 2009, but who could not seek jobs elsewhere when government failed to absorb them.
This kind of planning and goal-getting requires hard work, dedication and passion for one’s job. Not many public officials are so given and those that excel in their jobs – especially where national livelihood is concerned – deserve a pat on the back.
Everybody — from the grounds man who nurses the lawn, the general hand that sweeps the floors, the nurse aide that bathes the patients, the nurses that administer drugs and dress the wounds to the doctors that diagnose diseases and man the theatres — deserves a big thank you from all Zimbabweans.