The careless Ministry of Health

After arguing in this column a few weeks ago that the Health and Child Welfare ministry was being irresponsible for administering anti–bilharzia and intestinal worm tablets without the requisite public awareness, I sadly write again this week to re-affirm my position, shared by many parents and guardians – that this is one careless and shameful ministry.

Guest Column with Rashweat Mukundu

This, I say, noting that three deaths of children who took part in this programme have been recorded.

These are deaths that have been recorded and there could be as many other such related deaths that the media and the ministry have missed.

As I stated a few weeks ago, the Health ministry has demonstrated a shocking disregard for human life and contempt for citizen rights simply by taking our health for granted.

This is even more sad for a ministry that is led by doctors at almost every level, from the minister, the deputy, permanent secretary and directors.
It is sad and a national scandal that parents of the three dead children had no idea that what was meant to help in advancing the health of their children would on the contrary, result in their demise.

These parents and guardians, like many, were not fully informed of what to expect and had they known, they could probably have taken a decision or actions to protect their children.

When this programme was being carried out, there was no public education on whether children suffering from different conditions, be it those on ARV treatment, could take these drugs.

There was no information or awareness on whether children on other forms of treatment, short or long term, could take this cocktail of death.

The Health ministry in its wisdom made the decision for us – passed the message through some school circular and we were supposed to kneel down and say Yebo Nkosi.

Despite the recorded three deaths, as many children are sick, have been missing school classes and those parents and guardians who can afford have expended money in medical treatment – not at government hospitals which are almost dysfunctional, but at private hospitals and clinics.

I am yet to hear whether the ministry made any efforts to contact those families who lost children to explain what happened and comfort them and those still sick on what measures to take.

I am yet to hear of any emergency centres that have been set moreso in rural areas to deal with emergency cases.

Often, health centres in rural areas are tens of kilometres away and faced with a sick child – many rural parents or guardians are caught between a rock and hard place.

Not only are the health centres far away, they probably do not have trained staff, medication and critically, the staff may not have received enough information on what to do when faced with such emergencies.

If there is anything that describes and defines sleeping on the job then nothing beats this latest boob by the so called Health ministry.

The problem with such ministries is that they maintain a contemptuous attitude towards citizens they are supposed to serve.

This contempt is based on the “them” and “us” attitude. “Them” being the povo who are sick, ignorant and need the “Us”, doctors who are knowledgeable and who, through their “benevolence”, save us from our sicknesses of poverty.

It is on this basis that the Health ministry’s programmes are shrouded in technical language, and serious blunders are still hidden under procedures.

The deputy Health minister Paul Chimedza was telling us that they are expecting results of the investigation into the three deaths and before that, they do not know what could have gone wrong.

Whatever these results say is exactly what the Health ministry should have known before embarking on this programme.

One wonders whether the parents of the three children and many thousands more who are hallucinating, getting weak, vomiting and collapsing will ever get a logical answer.

One cannot therefore not stop wondering whether the children of the poor were used as guinea pigs.

I even wonder whether this programme was administered in private schools where the children of the “us” go to .

One cannot blame the lack of budgetary support because public awareness does not cost much.

It is after all, the role of the state‒owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Co-operation (ZBC) and indeed all licensed broadcasting stations to transmit public‒interest information.

I do not remember the minister holding a Press conference to launch this programme.

On the contrary, the launch programme involved administering the deadly drug that has resulted in three deaths and as many illnesses.

It is becoming clear that there is a huge disjuncture between training in medicine and training in management.

And, what the Health ministry needs as of yesterday are management skills in dealing with the citizen health issues.

Simply assuming that doctors know how to manage national health programmes is akin to assuming that a pilot knows how to assemble a Boeing engine.

And, for many years, the blunder of successive governments has been to think that the Ministry of Health must be led by medical doctors, some of whom are not even capable of taking care of their own health judging by their renowned alcohol abuse.

It is no surprise therefore that one of the most secretive ministries is that of Health and Child Welfare – this secretive attitude is to hide maggots in their cardboards.

Citizens need to confront this ministry as it so important to be left to the unthinking no matter what the certificates hanging in their offices say.

I maintain my stance, this is a shameful and careless ministry.

No wonder we have as many traditional healers and prophets doing brisk business, many now making a killing “diagnosing” and “healing” the side effects of the ministry anti–bilharzias and intestinal programme.

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  1. Hauna nyaya washaya

    1. Iwe ndiwe usina nyaya

    2. yako nyaya ndeyeyi ndimivanhu varikubata vana zvibharo imi you have no regard for life, if you dont care dont do it in public.

  2. Informative analysis, the povo are seriously being taken for granted. It is wrong to just prescribe medication without considering consequences of drug interactions for those allready on treatment for different ailments!

  3. my daughter was just given those tablets without prior consultations and i was not around when they carried out that exercise. was not even informed they would do it and i got home to a seriously sick child. have incurred bills and i am planning to sue the ministry and the school. they should have consulted us before doing that

  4. This stupid ministry is no longer helping but killing!if you no longer want your relative take him or her to the hospital.

  5. @ Joseph K ,why you are saying haana nyaya u a jst fool big fool,i dont thnk kuti une mwana,da waive nemwana akafa becoz of that bilhazia medication ungadai usingadaro,besides let the truth be said kwete kungomhanya kuhumana go hang kana wasvotwa idiot.

  6. wanyora zvakanaka. joseph unobva kupi, nekuti ndiwe usina nyaya.

  7. Isn’t it the same ministry that employs the person who advocated for our 10-year old kids to be given contraceptives? Oh My God; I shudder to think what worse things this nation would have been subjected to, 5 years from now. Precious Lord, please have mercy on us!!

  8. indeed this ministry of death owes us an apology. since my child was administered those 3 tablets, he has developed an unusual change in his eating habbit. he is now eating too much and at very short time interval. iam also afraid. we were supposed to be informed of the side effects of these tablets if the ministry had the nation at heart

  9. I am appalled by such shameless journalism. When I was reading the first first part of the article I thought to my self ‘this person knows what they are saying’, but as he continued running his mouth I realised it was an article with no research whatsoever, from a spiteful person who hates doctors! For your information to head a ministry there are management courses taken by doctors. You don’t just apply to manage a Ministry without a mph degree or an equivalent degree. While I agree that the outreach program was not well publicised it was something we needed as a country. our prevalence exceeded the who thresholds for bilharzia and most of the children are walking around with worms. This is not the first time such a program has been carried out in Zimbabwe. and we used similar drugs. The difference is the situation now has been sensationalised. The drugs used are cheap and safe, Kenya has been having successful programs using 3 drugs instead of the 2 we are using. private schools weer included in the programme. There are side effects Yes. 3 children died. are we sure these children died from the drugs? These are national matters which e need to put our literary at work. research before you write, ask the ministry officials, we epidemiology dept before writing such damaging issues in newspapers. I think people should stop attacking doctors as if you have many of them. These are severely underpaid professionals doing their best with the little resources they have. besides waiting for long time in queues most people will be helped at these public institutions you attack. issues which should be addressed are why we have 2 hospitals in harare to serve a population of more than 2 million. What are we going to do for the people who don’t have access to clean water, toilets so that they don’t get bilharzia? Because this program will need to be repeated again to get rid of these infections

    1. @Concerned. The writer may have some inaccurate opinions but he raises valid points that you fail to acknowledge. Some commenters on the thread have also highlighted the fact that their kids had medication administered without their (guardians) consent with those kids subsequently having side-effects (tell me that you think that these people are also just hallucinating). I believe that your reply almost indicates the stinking I-know-it-all attitude that is displayed by many of our medical officers. Granted that some people have issues against doctors, the article brings to light the failures in management within the MoHCW. Whether you are being honest or not about one needing an MPH or equivalent to have a job in the Ministry is another argument for another day but even if “these” people possess those qualifications, their actions suggest otherwise (BTW a certificate hanging on the wall is not equivalent to competency otherwise our country would not be as run down). The fact that most health professionals are underpaid does not exonerate unethical behaviour and the MoHCW (especially the Minister of Permanent Secretary) needs to acknowledge their fault for the manner in which the entire exercise was undertaken. We don’t need to walk on eggshells when criticizing the doctors or medical professionals just because they are few of them. We may as well accept being short-changed by our political RULERS because they are a “few of them”. Wrong is wrong!!!

  10. If it is all above board, why were parents ambushed? Why did the ministry take parents’ authority over their children to make decisions on their behalf? Something stinks here, and it is more than those deadly pills.

    Why were they foisted upon a populace that regularly reels from cholera and typhoid? They cannot even supply ARVs, when people pay for them in ‘that’ tax?

  11. What a stupid statement. This is rubbish. The author has severe lack of knowledge , complete ignorance. Suggesting that anti-bilharzia drugs interact with ARVs is sick and nauseating. There is no need to test that possibility because it is known and proven that they don’t. It is therefore foolish and a waste of resources to repeat what has been done already. When Immunizations are carried in schools has there been any need for parental consent? The program has been carried out for many years. You are must have been sleeping not know or you are too inane to have known this was happening. No child has died ever. Every drug on earth has side effects. These innocent children suffered from the adverse effects of anti-bilharzia drugs. This was unfortunate and regrettable. I can only blame the manufacturers of the drugs. The program must continue. Maybe this time reverting back to our usual medications. There are more benefits in treating bilharzia and giving prophylaxis ,given well known short term and long term complications of bilharzia and its potential to infect other organs besides the urinary system.. Then Investigations must be done to establish the cause of death of those pupils. To suggest that doctors are bad managers because they are alcoholics is as ailing as the whole of your ridiculous story. You have shown your hatred towards a noble profession. Doctors in management positions are further trained in management. There are numerous courses they undergo to make them competent managers. I think you are aware? Besides not all those at the top and in management positions are doctors. Think before you write loser.!

    1. What a show of your ignorance or is it arrogance! A quick google search should tell you that you can say that it is sick to suggest that praziquantel has no interaction with ARVs. Literature will tell you that there are theoretical potential interactions ritonavir-boosted NNRTIs, so you cannot say that it is nauseating to suggest that there could be adverse effects. The whole argument of saying that doctors are trained in management is lame. As I have said above that having a university/college certificate/degree is not a testament of competency in the actual work for which the degrees are conferred. We have hospital CMOs and CEOs with MPHs and even PhDs but everyone can testify of the rot in the health facilities. I am a health care professional myself but I am not proud of many of the “big” people working in the ministry. I remember that at UZ we even used to make fun (with good reason) of Parirenyatwa saying that he did his medical degree by correspondence (no offence to anyone studying by correspondence) because of certain glaring pointers of incompetence. Guess whom we have back as MoH again? Beware that you may be the loser who just blurts insults without credible evidence.

      1. You are a health professional we,nhunzi. Interactions between ART and praziquantel and ART warranting discontinuing of bilharzia drugs in HIV positive patients. Are you also suggesting that if the interactions exist it is fatal to cause deaths? A single of This is stinking nonsense.There is a high prevalence of schistosomiasis and other helminths in HIV positive patients after all, such that it is being suggested they must be screened and treated with praziquantel. You are a fake health professional. At one point Mpilo hospital had a CEO with no medical knowledge/degree. The financial director, as well as the operations director also had no medical degrees. I don`t have to tell what happened to Mpilo hospital one of the biggest institutions in Zimbabwe. It has gone to the dogs.

  12. You know the grieving families do not give a fig about doctors, their noble profession and what have you. What they need are their children back which of course will not happen. Can the ministry show some empathy please and be quick and truthful with the results. Enough with the posturing.

  13. Concerned zvaune mph degree mazotiitira zvipi. Kuuraya ndokwamakatorera degree iroro here?

  14. @concerned you are not concerned about the death of three children. what could be more shameful than the death of three innocent children who said good bye to their parents not knowing they will never return home alive. it is a shame of a ministry we have. shame, shame, shame, shame

  15. The writer is writing from the heart and not from the head. U don’t watch ztv- the launch was shown on ztv news. Total lack of knowledge is better than partial knowledge. Journalists may u advise before publishing. May u people who blame go out of Zim or to the prophets and n’angas wen u and yo children get ill. I hope you saw the postmortem of these children to confidently utter these sentiments

    1. It makes sad reading to note that three children died after taking these bilhazia pills. It is even worse to note that some doctors( not sure anymore if they are doctors) fail to acknowledge the mishap. what the public only want is that the ministry own up to the issue and engage parents next time when such health issues arise. Being qualified and being competent are two different things. We need competent human resources who have people at heart. To be defensive at this juncture is really not called for, probably a press statement from the ministry explaining the circumstances will help. The aggrieved will always shout. Zimbabwe is known for having good hearted people.

  16. all this nonsense dont bring back the lost kids … after all is said and done the ministry is held responsible for the death of these kids whether the drugs have been used here or kenya or anywhere else .. they just did not do their homework …They should swallow their pride and apologise to the nation

  17. @concerned kana uri chiremba une mapepa ekuba ….

  18. Zimbabwe government is just a piece of shit. That’s all I can say. Nothing positive is coming from this shit government. How cursed are we.

  19. I hope the writer is not saying that if parents had been informed, the kids would not have died

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