HomeEditorial CommentMass exodus of health staff cause for concern

Mass exodus of health staff cause for concern

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RECENT media reports that the country’s public health sector has lost more than 2 000 workers to greener pastures this year are a damning indictment on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government given that the country is under a severe COVID-19 attack, among other health challenges.

Given this dire situation, the country should not be losing health personnel at such an alarming rate over issues which could be easily addressed if our government was really committed to the well-being of its citizens.

This depressing news came out during a Health Services Board (HSB) strategic review in Victoria Falls this week.  According to statistics from the HSB, as of November 30 this year, a total of 2 246 healthcare professionals had left the service. This is nearly double the number of health professionals who left the public sector last year. Another shocking statistic was that by June 2021, the health sector had lost more than twice the number of nurses that left the service in 2020.

This, of course, is hardly surprising. It is the consequence of poor working conditions that health workers have had to contend with for years, with their incomes ravaged by inflation as the local currency  continues to lose value against major currencies.

Their plight has been worsened by lack of essential equipment  in public hospitals including basic drugs such as painkillers. Even personal protective equipment, which is critical since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, has been woefully inadequate, leaving severel health workers severely exposed to infection.

Demonstrations by health workers over lack of basic equipment and dire working conditions have elicited a brutal response ranging  from  threats, docking  of salaries to outright dismissal instead of having their concerns addressed. Bizarrely, to further stifle the strikes by health workers, the government is considering introducing a law that bars health workers from demonstrating for more than three consecutive days at any given time.

This has culminated in public hospitals turning into death traps as health workers helplessly watch people dying from treatable illnesses. Such is the perilous state of public hospitals that senior government officials avoid them in preference to foreign facilities.

That even the Health minister Constantino Chiwenga himself chooses to be treated in a foreign land is an embarrassing indicator of government’s lack of confidence in its own systems, hence its perennial underfunding of the social services sectors, particularly health.

Unless the government takes concrete steps to address the working conditions of health workers and  civil servants in general, the stench of failure will continue to reek in the corridors of power.

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