The head of Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ paediatrics department, Azza Mashumba, wept in frustration as she chronicled how babies with a fair chance of survival were dying simply because there were no basic drugs and sundries.
From hearing a heartbeat of a baby in distress becoming just a flutter which eventually dies away as the foetus gives up is not something anyone has to live with.
Her grief and helplessness at the situation prevailing in most of the public hospitals resonates with many. Her candidness in sharing the horrors not only experienced by the patients, but the doctors themselves who are faced with the difficult task of indirectly choosing who gets to live and who doesn’t touched many people.
But Mashumba’s plea was quite simple really; can the powers that be provide the medicine consistently and replace worn out equipment? She, along with her colleagues, have knocked on “a thousand doors” written many lists, but her output is “stillbirths and disabled babies”.
Elective lists are not being done until they become an emergency, often too late.
“No one is listening; there is no urgency,” she says. Her words aptly describe why the situation has deteriorated to such pitiable levels, with no plausible solution.
Over the years, the rot in public hospitals, which unfortunately cater for the bulk of the populace who cannot afford private care, has been ignored and remain underfunded.
The once tolerant senior doctors who remained behind ensuring the hospitals remain functional during industrial actions by the junior staff, have had enough and this week protested against the lack of political will to correct the situation.
This is a sure failure on the part of the government, which is supposed to ensure that its people get access to quality healthcare when they need it.
There is so much compromised service delivery that hospitals have now become death traps.
What is infuriating is that the issues raised are not new at all, they have been raised countless times, but like Mashumba alluded to, are falling on deaf ears.
Health minister Obadiah Moyo, a former chief executive of a hospital, should understand exactly what these brave men and women go through every day, turning away patients who go home only to die.
The hospital is a place of healing and hope, but the opposite is the case now. Before more lives are lost needlessly, there is now an urgent call for action and not just meetings and debates.
False promises of medicines having been procured when the national drugs warehouse is empty are cruel and are a sad reminder of the failures of President Emmerson Mnagagwa’s Second Republic.
Clearly, hospitals need financing and the government should stop looking to donors to bail them out, but carefully consider innovative ways of securing domestic funding.