THE strike by Harare City Council (HCC) nurses for nearly a year has left pregnant women, chronic patients and babies facing difficulties in accessing critical medication.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Out of 42 clinics that are run by HCC, only eight are operational, a situation that has resulted in unscrupulous staffers taking advantage and charging exorbitant amounts to facilitate access to medical attention.
Due to the closure of most clinics, patients have to spend long hours queuing at the few that still provide services, while unscrupulous characters are cashing in by charging US$10 to patients that are desperate for medication such as antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).
Some patients interviewed by NewsDay at the weekend expressed displeasure at the closure of the facilities.
A pregnant woman, who is HIV positive, said she had to seek services at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals due to the closure of council facilities.
She said at one of the clinics, a worker volunteered to assist her, but demanded money.
“The person demanded that I should pay US$10 in order to be assisted which I did not have. I am now concerned because my current ARV supplies will not last me a week,” the woman said.
She disclosed that she stayed in Kuwadzana and that the operational council clinic in the area only served a limited number of patients.
“The Kuwadzana 4 clinic is the only one which is operational, but people wake up very early in the morning to queue. The Warren Park clinic is closed,” she said.
Those on ARVs expressed concern that they were at risk of transmitting the virus to their unborn babies.
HCC corporate communications manager Michael Chideme said most clinics were closed due to the industrial action by nurses.
“We only have a few clinics open because nurses are on strike,” he said.
On corrupt members of staff who are now fleecing patients, Chideme said: “Corruption is not tolerated and we will get to the bottom of this and expose the people behind it.”
The crippling strike by nurses has exposed the already fragile Zimbabwean health system which has been struggling for years.
Nurses at council clinics declared incapacitation in November last year.
The council declared the strike illegal, but the nurses have vowed not to report for duty until they get a reasonable wage increase.
The impasse has resulted in the Combined Harare Residents Association and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Right making a High Court application to put pressure on HCC to reopen clinics and ensure that all pregnant women receive emergency medical services.
The High Court granted the application ordering HCC to open the clinics by October 14, 2020.
However, the HCC is yet to comply with the court ruling as clinics at Mbare Matapi, Mbare Hostels, Marlborough, Warren Park and Sunningdale are closed, while clinics in Tafara, Mabvuku, Mufakose, Highfield and Dzivarasekwa are open, but not operational.