THE perennial shortage of specialised health personnel has been cited as compromising the quality of health service delivery in the country with the available services overpriced beyond the reach of ordinary members of the public.
By Phyllis Mbanje
This came out during medical aid society Cimas’ health expo held in Harare over the weekend where health experts noted that the country was only left with four blood disorder specialists, also known as haematologists, after most of them had sought greener pastures in neighbouring countries.
Haematologists perform a wide range of laboratory tests to produce and interpret results assisting clinicians in their diagnosis and treatment of disease while supporting hospital departments like intensive care, operating theatres, special care baby units and oncology.
Citizens Health Watch trustee Fungisai Dube said most major referral hospitals were operating on skeleton staff especially the experts in various disciplines.
“The shortages are occurring at all levels of the healthcare system and this has deprived needy patients of special care,” she said. The shortage has pushed up the price of the available services as they enjoy a monopoly.
“A visit to a physician will knock you back around $120, but how many people considering the current economic situation can afford that?” Dube said.
According to the American Society of Haematologists, common blood disorders include anaemia, bleeding disorders such as haemophilia, blood clots, and blood cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
Elson Mberi, while giving a moving account of how Cimas had helped him achieve his dream of becoming a haematologist by sponsoring his studies in South Africa, lamented the shortage which he described as a tragedy. “It is sad and quite a tragedy that there are only four haematologists in the whole country,” he said.
Zimbabwe is also battling with shortages of pathologists, radiologists and surgical oncologists.
Despite cancer being one of the leading killer diseases, the country is grappling with an acute shortage of oncologists.
Only a minority (10%) of patients has health insurance and in many situations, reimbursement for service provision is rationed.
“There is need for a deliberate strategy to address these shortages because the poor will die at home while a few privileged ones will access the expensive private specialists,” Dube said.