HomeOpinion & AnalysisHealth workforce retention urgently needed in Zimbabwe

Health workforce retention urgently needed in Zimbabwe


For a country to have a robust health delivery system, there are six pillars that were recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2007.

Johannes Marisa

These pillars include health workforce, financing, leadership, medicines, information systems and service delivery. Failure to comply with any of these weight-bearers can result in a shaky building that has the potential to collapse on inhabitants.

COVID-19 has come with ramifications, some of them sadistic and egregious. It was on Sunday when India lost 50 doctors to COVID-19 in one day. The frontliners are being decimated, leaving health delivery service with little modicum of life.

Our country is in the midst of massive brain drain with nurses and doctors leaving in droves for greener pastures. The United Bulawayo Hospitals lost at least 52 nurses and two doctors since the beginning of the year, while Mpilo has witnessed the departure of at least 77 nurses.

This is an obnoxious situation considering that those who resign and leave Zimbabwe are some of the most experienced practitioners.

I have a nurse colleague who confided in me that daily, an average of four nurses are leaving either Sally Mugabe Central Hopital or Parirenyatwa Group of Hopitals.

This is a calamitous situation that should be addressed as a matter of urgency considering the threat posed by COVID-19.

One way or the other, everyone will be affected when you or your relatives fail to be attended to quickly at government or council hospitals because of a critical shortage of  staff. My heart bleeds for such scenarios that could result in human carnage.

There is no way our country can boast triumphant policies when health delivery service is crumbling because health and development have a symbiotic relationship.

The nation needs to introspect and take the necessary steps to stem the massive brain drain underway.

It is a pity that office-bearers seem not to do proper internal and external environmental analyses when setting future goals. SWOT analysis, PESTELIIG Models, Mkinsey 7’s models can be used to analyse our situation so that we have lasting solutions to the perennial problems devilling the health sector.

We are known to train and produce some of the best health workforce in the world, but we do little to retain them.

The few that remain standing face incessant challenges — lack of recognition, demotivation, long working hours, workplace victimisation, poor remuneration, absence of incentives and it is incontrovertibly true that many of the health staff are still at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid even ten years after completing training.

The following measures can be of value if the country is to stem the current brain drain in the health sector:

  • Government should change tact and go for satisfying strategies that are not deemed vindictive.

There have been a lot of friction between health workers and government over remuneration, a situation aggravated by the COVID-19 virus with health workers raising the red flag over personal protective clothing.

  • Government ministries should collaborate if the health workforce is to be assisted.

The Health and Child Care, Finance and Local Government ministers should put their heads together. There has been talk of residential stands to be given to the health workforce across Zimbabwe.

Why is it that the entire nation with vast tracts of land in towns and cities cannot organise stands for the few remaining health workforce?

Why allow land barons to grab State land and sell it to desperate citizens, while health personnel is being denied land?

It is time to act as a nation. The Finance ministry is taking too long to avail a duty-free car import facility for the few medical personnel that has remained to defend the nation.

Who is failing to implement such an important measure that can result in a better health delivery service? We need serious policymakers that value lives.

  • Both private and public health practitioners should be considered when talking about staff retention.

It has been tradition to ignore private practitioners when incentives are introduced, yet they are integral pillars that defend the nation.

When we define gross domestic product (GDP), we note that it is the value of all goods and services produced within a country, a definition that shows the importance of everyone, be they in private or public practice.

Our health staff is leaving Zimbabwe at an unprecedented rate and time to act is now. Assuming all is well in the health sector is merely fooling ourselves and is detrimental to the health of our nation.

It is time government moves with speed to do everything possible to retain the remaining skills as we cannot afford to continue losing more health workers.

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