‘Zim health sector in dire straits’

Zimbabwe’s health sector has been plunged into dire straits

THE country’s health sector has been plunged into dire straits as poor remuneration and working conditions drives qualified health professionals into the diaspora where they are being employed as simple nurse aides, health experts have said.

The country has over the years recorded a mass exodus of skilled workers, who have opted for menial foreign jobs owing to poor remuneration back home.

Currently, the country has lost at least 3 000 nurses to the UK alone in the past two years.

Salary negotiations have yielded little and have resulted in perennial job action and deadlocks.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike told NewsDay that skilled health professionals are opting to do care work outside the country simply because government is failing to pay health workers decent wages.

“One of the major challenges facing Zimbabwe's public health care system is brain drain. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists have left and continue to leave the country to destinations like the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In fact, Zimbabwean health professionals are now found in nearly all countries, including non-traditional destinations such as Dubai,” Rusike said.

“It is very unfortunate that senior, highly-qualified and experienced health professionals are now opting to do a Red-Cross short course on care work so that they can quickly get the work visa permit for the UK and leave the country with their spouses and children with very little chances of coming back any time soon.

“The country has failed to stabilise the brain drain for a number of decades, and recently some clinics in the capital city have closed for lack of staff. Health care workers continue to be trained but fail to fill in the posts established in the 1980s, let alone the posts and establishment required to deal with the current population, disease epidemiology and health and development targets.”

Public Service International sub-regional secretary for Southern Africa Tichaona Fambisa said: “This is a serious problem because what this means is that poor countries like Zimbabwe are subsidising the health systems of developed countries. Health professionals are trained in the country and after that they leave to serve other countries. Government should make sure that they invest more in public service so that public sector workers and health workers can earn decent salaries and fail to find reasons to migrate.”

Efforts to get a comment from Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima were fruitless. But speaking to NewsDay last week; Mavima said government was in the process of increasing salaries for health workers to slow down the exodus.

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