THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has shot down a petition to operate 24-hour clinics citing staff shortages caused by the government’s employment freeze.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
A Bulawayo resident and activist, Khumbulani Maphosa on November 30 last year petitioned mayor Martin Moyo, town clerk, Christopher Dube and other council health professionals to review council clinics operating times.
BCC clinics close at 3pm daily, but Maphosa argued the closing time denies the public access to emergency health care services, and is an assault on the right to health and a violation of section 76 (3) of the Constitution.
Moyo, in his response dated February 12, said the BCC was hamstrung by several factors, top among them staff shortages, to operate for 24 hours.
“In the 19 clinics operated by council, the staff compliment does not exceed 60%, which results in burnout of staff and long waiting times for patients.
“The City of Bulawayo has an employment freeze and vacancies previously occupied by retired or deceased staff members have not been filled. Staff at maternity centres works 12-hour shifts in order to cope and this leads to overtime, which is a heavy liability to council,” he said, adding the council has, however, identified land to construct two district hospitals in Bulawayo that will be open 24 hours.
“The city is aware of the need for after hours care and in that regard land was requested and identified for construction of two district hospitals in Pumula South and Luveve by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Until the situation improves, it is not possible to open the clinics for 24hours every day.”
The BCC operates 19 clinics and one infectious disease hospital in Thorngrove suburb against a need of not less than 25. The BCC was forced to lease its Mahatshula and Lobengula clinics owing to staff shortages.
In an interview with Southern Eye, Maphosa on Wednesday said the mayor’s excuse all but showed that councillors lacked innovation, and interest in ensuring the city had clinics that were open 24 hours daily.
“I feel there is lack of dynamic and creative thinking to implement this proposal, for instance, the mayor complains of employment freeze, but there are many dynamic ways of achieving this goal through partnership with development partners without council violating the employment freeze or incurring direct employment costs,” he said.
“The use of the word ‘impossible’ shows that he is not keen to deeply apply his mind to the issue because truly there is nothing impossible where there is a will to innovate and implement.”