The Harare Central Hospital is facing a plethora of challenges owing to the unavailability of money and human resources to efficiently run one of the country’s biggest referral centres.
BY VANESSA GONYE
Speaking during a familiarisation tour by the Health Service Board (HBS), hospital chief executive Nyasha Masuka said the institution usually depended on locum nurses, but they were now reluctant to come due to non-payment of their services.
Masuka cited the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) which has one nurse serving four patients instead of a ratio of 1:1.
“This is a 1 000 (bed) hospital, we should be having 150 patients in ICU not the 15 we have at the moment. Some ICU patients are currently being taken care of in wards,” Masuka said.
Almost every port of call during the tour had the same concerns, shortage of staff, unavailability of drugs and other requisite equipment, a situation which Masuka said has been the norm for some time.
A casualty officer at the children’s wing said staff shortages have become unbearable as one officer has to manage a number of areas with high volumes alone, especially during the morning shift.
“We attend to an average of 50 patients each morning and this is a big load for the officer on duty as they also have to attend to the cholera patients, something which borders on infection control, rendering it poor,” a doctor at the children’s wing said.
The hospital has not been spared the current drug shortages with patients being forced to look for supplies on their own.
At the moment, there are no intravenous (IV) antibiotics, cannulas, painkillers as well as other necessary drugs, leaving the hospital with no option, but to turn away patients without proper treatment or to tell them to provide for themselves.
HSB chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana said the situation at the hospital was bad and demotivating to health personnel.
“One of the demotivating factors is the work environment, it affects the nurses more than the remuneration. We were in Mutare recently, the issues are similar, workers are frustrated that the tools of the trade are inadequate,” he said.