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Health, education sectors in doldrums

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ZIMBABWE is now grounded, faced with a dying healthcare system and a collapsed education sector as evidenced by the on-going job action and dilapidated infrastructure reminiscence of the 2006-2008 situation, ex-cabinet ministers have said.

MOSES MATENGA

 The rot in the health delivery system and the education sector came out in the open this week following crippling protests by doctors and nurses who have since been joined by teachers, bringing to a halt the last vestiges of public service delivery.

Doctors and nurses picketed the Health Services Board offices this week, protesting poor remuneration and pitiable working conditions and the job action is likely to spread to other cities and towns, worsening the already fragile system.

 Teachers and other civil servants have also threatened to join in, coordinating a full-blown strike, after declaring incapacitation for over three years now. This also comes amid reports that the uniformed forces are also unhappy with unfulfilled promises of garrison shops and other incentives in their barracks to cushion them from the biting economic crisis.

A senior medical doctor and former Health and Child Care minister Henry Madzorera said the healthcare system in Zimbabwe is dead and now resembling the catastrophic 2006-2008 era.

“The problem with our healthcare delivery system today is it has deteriorated to the 2006- 2008 conditions. There is very little healthcare to talk about right now,” Madzorera said.

“There is government disgruntlement among the people. We are tired of complaining. The government seems not to be implementing any reforms in the way of financing healthcare.” Dying patients “The people who suffer are the patients. People are dying in the queues while waiting for attention. Emergencies are not being attended to as emergencies,” Madzorera said.

He said the ongoing strike is likely to continue while patients perish. “The strikes that are currently going on are going to continue. It doesn’t matter what the government does. You can’t punish someone who feels the salary you are giving them is worthless. How do you punish them?”

“The end sufferer is the patient. The institutions are dilapidated and have been like this for many years now. Equipment is broken down. Simple things that should be done in hospitals can’t be done, simple laboratory tests, simple X-rays, ultra-sound scan, things that should be done at every district hospital, we are not doing that because the equipment is broken down or there is no health worker to operate the equip[1]ment.”

Cancer machines are always broken down, endangering lives.

Brain-drain

Madzorera, who was Health minister in the inclusive government between 2009 and 2013, said due to the economic crisis, Zimbabwe has lost thousands of professionals in sought of greener pastures and the end sufferer was the patient.

 “We are now witnessing an unprecedented brain drain. We see doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals leaving in droves and now even nurse aides are leaving. It is worrying because it is difficult to train those people.”

 “Our workforce is depleting just like it was in the hyperinflationary era.”

 “Even those who are present right now are not working to their maximum capacity.”

Dilapidated infrastructure

Madzorera also bemoaned the infrastructure he said was now broken down, an indication of government neglect.

“Everything is broken down, nothing is working as it should. Government should commit to funding healthcare above all else. We can’t have senior government officials receiving healthcare in other countries, they must have faith with their own.”

 High-ranking officials, including Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, regularly seek medical attention outside the country, particularly India and China.

Chiwenga is also the minister of Health and presides over the rot in the health delivery system. Madzorera said the government must also tackle corruption that is now destroying the health delivery system.

Militarisation of healthcare system

“The other problem the government must be wary of is the apparent militarisation of the healthcare system in Zimbabwe. You cannot militarise a civilian function. This whole thing about new laws that they want to bring up to curtail the right of healthcare workers does not work.”

“Healthcare workers are human beings just like all others and should have their liberty and strike when they need to. This government has tried to militarise the healthcare system, but that does not work; they should just meet their demands,” Madzorera said.

Former Education minister David Coltart said the education sector is experiencing its worst-ever crisis. “The education sector is in an absolutely catastrophic state,” Coltart said.

 “lt is the worst crisis in education sector in over 60 years, if not ever,” he added. “It is underfunded, there is lowest moral among the teachers. The new curriculum is poorly implemented and it is a disaster. The government has underfunded education. Physical infrastructure is collapsing. It is just an unmit[1]igated disaster.”

 Coltart said dialogue with teacher unions is the only way out. Arresting and victimising vocal activists is unhelpful.

 “What needs to be done is we need dialogue; we cannot just be threatening teachers in the way we have done. The starting point is dialogue,” Coltart said.

“We cannot have meaningful dialogue if we lock up teachers’ unions leaders when they make genuine demands.”

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