STAKEHOLDERS in the health sector have called on government to urgently fix the economy and end the nurses’ strike which has crippled operations at most public hospitals.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Executive director of the Community Working Group on Health Josh Rusike said the strike action by nurses had accelerated the deterioration of both public and clinical health care.
“Only a tiny elite can afford real access to health care in the private sector at the moment as the majority of Zimbabwean people depend on a functional public health system as they cannot afford the exorbitant charges by the health sector for consultation,” Rusike said.
“The $50 night allowances recently promised to nurses may not meet their current demands given the average nurse’s income which can only buy 50% of what it did in 1980,” he said.
Rusike said closure of major public hospitals to referral patients from clinics put most patients at risk as they could not afford high fees charged by the private health providers.
“Even with limited resources, government is required to give first priority to the most basic health needs of the population and to the most vulnerable sections of the population. Unfortunately, nurses are caught in the middle of a system that is slow to respond to their needs and ethical pressures not to take collective job action,” Rusike said.
He said the bottom line was to fix the economy and address the challenges for health workers, as well as making the public health system functional again for the benefit of the general public.
Community Health Watch (CHW) trustee Fungisai Dube said while they acknowledged the concerns raised by nurses, they were disturbed that patients were the ones on the receiving end of the standoff between government and health care providers.
“The right to health is a basic human right for every citizen in this country and it is enshrined in the Constitution. Moreover, government has a constitutional obligation to ensure that the citizenry has access to health care,” Dube said.
CHW said during the strike, they had observed a lot of rights violations with patients turned away and advised to seek health services at private institutions which they could not afford considering that 10 million of the country’s 12,6 million population received health care at public hospitals.