By Johannes Marisa
MANY African countries have been blamed for neglecting health service delivery with resultant high morbidity and mortality.
Many deaths could have been avoided had health facilities been uplifted in time. Measures to contain brain drain have not been as fast as expected and the consequences have been obvious, poor service delivery at the end.
The Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978 emerged as a major milestone of the 20th century in the field of public health and it identified primary healthcare as the key to the attainment of the goal of health for all. The principles of primary healthcare are easy accessibility, public participation, health promotion, appropriate technology and inter-sectoral co-operation. All these tenets seem quite feasible and from a glance, the chances of a successful health delivery system are quite high.
What are the problems that are continuously bedevilling the most delicate sector that deals with humankind, the health sector? For long, private practitioners have not been treated well by stakeholders who include Medical Aid Societies that have been exhibiting bullish behaviours for long coupled with non-payment of service providers while they bask in glory. The practitioner has been left in the cold for a long time and this should change as there should be mutual understanding.
COVID-19 is attacking us left, right and centre and we are in the midst of losing more and more of our people. The end seems to be far as the world faces multiple waves of the coronavirus. Super economic giants of the world like the United States of America, United Kingdom are quivering again after there was a temporary reduction of cases and deaths from the COVID-19. What we should be accustomed to is that the coronavirus may linger among us for quite a long time and it should not be a surprising if the following three years will see us in a more precarious position than what we are today. This is the time we should be collaborating with all the stakeholders in order to bring health to the people and one such important measure is vaccination. It is quite absurd that there are many people who are still at the forefront of disinformation and misinformation concerning vaccines yet many people are still losing family members due to COVID-19. Vaccination does not mean one will not suffer from the virus anymore, no, it means you may withstand complications that may arise as your body has been exposed to the protein before.
The private health practitioners have stood tall in our country to defend the nation against the stubborn COVID-19 invasion. These practitioners have long been working for the benefit of the nation but in the past, there has been a lot of sidelining especially when dealing with public health issues. There are many health centres in all towns and cities with experienced doctors, pharmacists, scientists, nurses, but most of these are not utilised despite volunteering their services. What does a doctor lose by merely doing a Caesarean section at a hospital close to their home while on holiday? Recently, the Health minister authorised the involvement of private practitioners in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines so that the burden is lessened on the few health workforce that is overwhelmed. The private practitioners have managed to contain the pressure in collaboration with government workers — more jabs delivered per day, close to 100 000 daily.
Harare has done great with city council co-ordinators doing well to expedite the processes. Challenges are still prevalent in many districts dotted around Zimbabwe and many private practitioners are sending distress calls over the slow implementation of the vaccination programme. The following have been some of the challenges so far:
l Serious inaction by district health executives who sit on important national programmes like vaccination. I have been checking with Goromonzi, Bindura, Gokwe, Zvishavane and Ruwa, it seems no major movement of vaccines to private practitioners has taken place. Such lackadaisical approach to a national cause by the district medical officers, district nursing officers, district environmental officers and pharmacists should never be tolerated. Why sideline fellow practitioners who are tirelessly working to bring health to the masses.
l Inter-sectoral co-operation should be scaled in health service and for long many health issues have not been sorted because of the repugnant behaviour of office bearers. If all of us realise that we are taking part in the vaccination programme for the nation and not for personal gain, then Zimbabwe will be on the world map again.
It is, therefore, my appeal to government and other relevant stakeholders not to forget the roles that are played by private practitioners in order to defend the country especially at this juncture.
Everyone has become astute and the level of determination is shocking the entire world that did not expect such levels of success over COVID-19. Private practitioners need recognition, I will not mince my words.