Editorial Comment: Govt must turn around health situation

Editorial Comment

AS the health situation in Zimbabwe’s public hospitals spirals out of control, diasporans scattered across the globe have been forced to combine efforts and initiate crowd-funding as a means to finance critical services.

Over the years, as the sector teetered on the brink of collapse, these men and women, making a quarter of the population, have taken it upon themselves to ensure their kith and kin back home get decent health services.

There have been several initiatives, including the cholera committee, which were set up by the Zimbabwe Diaspora Health Alliance in response to one of the worse outbreaks last year. Over 54 people died of a medieval disease which has been eradicated in many countries, but remains a major headache for Zimbabwe.

Recently, the Save our Hospitals initiative was launched with the aid of a diasporan, who set up a committee with influential people like human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, international banker Pindie Nyandoro and eye surgeon Solomon Guramatunhu.

A group of Zimbabwean ladies in the United Kingdom has also launched the Gloves Initiative, led by a Zimbabwean lady who works in the UK’s National Health Service. There is a critical shortage of gloves in hospitals, a situation which exposes the staff and patients to infection.

All these initiatives further expose the inability by government to take up the responsibility of ensuring that health facilities are well-resourced with medicines, equipment and well-paid personnel.

There are a myriad of challenges within the sector which need strong political will, with the Health ministry being called on by stakeholders to work with the Finance ministry in mobilising and managing domestic resources so as to increase public funding.

That patients who have been admitted are being housed in corridors is sad and is a clear sign of how the government has failed its own people by denying them a basic right to quality health.

Pregnant women continue to give birth at home or by the roadside because they cannot afford the maternity fees. This is despite that user fees were scrapped for pregnant women. But without financing it, it remains a useless policy.

Many hospitals cannot pay for these women and are forced to ask for payment to remain functional. Chitungwiza has serious water problems, at times going for a week without running water. Surely, that is unacceptable. Plans should be put in place for alternative water sources, and these hospitals should be exempted from water rationing.

How can theatre procedures be carried out in the absence of water?

It is time for the government to seriously initiate funding mechanisms for the health sector and ensure that medical staff have adequate equipment and medical sundry to perform at their best.

That the diasporans are now taking it upon themselves to pool funds for their families back home exposes failure by government to fend for its own.

Many countries in Africa, like Rwanda, have turned around and now have the best public health systems, which is the envy of many.

Universal health coverage will remain a mirage for most Zimbabweans who cannot afford foreign medical treatment like most government officials.

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