THE winding long corridors are empty. The creepy atmosphere is in complete contrast with the usual buzz among visitors coming to see their sick relatives at Parirenyatwa Hospital.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Once in a while, two or so people whizz by and, for some reason, all are walking fast.
Many are clutching empty plastic containers. When the NewsDay crew makes an inquiry, the explanation given is that it is for storing water for the admitted patients.
As the news crew approaches ward A2 for children, a young woman, also carrying a plastic container, stops them and asks if they were visiting, before explaining that many patients had been discharged.
“If you have a relative with a sick child, you better call first, because people were discharged in the morning, except for those with children on oxygen,” she said.
After volunteering this critical piece of information, she shuffles off. She is one of the “lucky” mothers, whose baby is on oxygen. These are the ones who get to stay.
However, on approaching the ward, a junior nurse is casually standing by the small reception.
Most of the wards are empty. True to the words of that young mother, only babies on oxygen have remained behind.
The mothers look so forlorn and there is stark fear written on their faces. One or two confess that they are unsure for how long the hospital will keep them.
“If they discharge me like the others, how will my baby breathe, because she has been struggling to do so on her own,” she said.
The ICU, however, is out of bounds and the crew is shooed away.
The corridors are filling up and there are pounding feet everywhere. Many are concerned about their relatives.
“My aunt, who is admitted here, says the nurses were there, but were not attending to anyone. One actually told those who wanted to go, to do so,” a woman, who had visited a relative, said.
Part of her entourage that accompanied her weighed in their concerns saying their worry was on seeking alternative health services.
“Private medical facilities are expensive. All of us are trying to pool together money so that we can get her to a private clinic,” one of the male relatives said.
The doctors downed tools citing lack of resources in public health facilities as well as poor remuneration and allowances.
The government, through the Health Services Board, offered a deal that the health personnel have scoffed at. The stalemate, however, has resulted in more suffering for the patients.
Given the concerns raised by the relative about the high costs of private medical care, the reality of what will become of most critical patients that were discharged at the height of the industrial action is too grim to contemplate.
A foul smell pervades the wards, an indistinguishable mixture of sickness and that nauseating hospital disinfectant that stick with you for hours.
Two security guards sitting by the door look tired, but they chat in low tones, occasionally shaking their heads.
As the NewsDay crew troops in they did not bother, as they normally do, but instead looked uninterested.
A young woman with swollen eyes walks out accompanied by a uniformed police man. Maybe a case of domestic violence? She is clutching a wad of papers and walks with a slight limp.
A woman at the main counter of the casualty room is arguing with some family members, who want the hospital to refund them because their admitted relative has been prematurely discharged.
“We paid a lot of money and all we are asking you is to refund us so that we seek help elsewhere. Clearly this hospital has failed,” a middle aged woman says, agitation creeping into her voice.
Two accompanying males try to restrain her, but she is adamant and presses her face against the glass screen separating her from the woman handling her case.
On the steel benches, there is no one, but a few minutes later, a young man walks in and in undertones converses with the woman behind the counter.
She points to the benches and tells him someone will assist him shortly. She stammers when he asks her if indeed he would get assistance. She avoids eye contact and impatiently waves him off.
“I told you, a doctor will come and speak to you,” she says unconvincingly.
Just then, a white Honda Fit pulls up at the entrance. Two people stumble out of the car. They have a very sick relative, but no one assists them in getting the man into the hospital. The younger of the two dashes inside and comes back pushing a stretcher.
Sliding the patient on to the narrow bed is quite a task and the elderly woman accompanying the young man struggles.
After several attempts, they manage to settle the patient and wheel him inside.
Frantic efforts are being made to contain the consequences of the job action In a press statement issued last week, the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) said they had not reached any consensus with the parent ministry, contrary to claims made by Health minister David Parirenyatwa a day earlier.
“We, as the ZHDA, have been waiting patiently for the minister and his team to come to the negotiating table, so that a solution can be found for this impasse that doctors can return to work and avoidable mortality and morbidity can be mitigated.
“We are, however, disappointed by this latest development, as it shows that the minister and his team are not at all committed to these negotiations and whatever they bring to the negotiating table is being brought about in bad faith.
“This is really an unfortunate turn of events, as the authority tasked with guaranteeing the healthcare of Zimbabweans seems to be completely oblivious to the magnitude of the problem at hand,” the doctors said.
With accusations and counter-accusations flying back and forth, it appears like a lasting solution to the crisis is far from being reached, and the ordinary patient will continue to pay a high price.