ALTHOUGH the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called out rich countries for taking health workers from poor countries, representatives of public sector workers in Zimbabwe say pathetic working conditions amid an unending socio-economic crisis are forcing workers to seek pastures elsewhere.
The World Health Organisation’s2023 report titled: “Health Workforce Support and Safeguards” found that some 55 countries, including Zimbabwe, now rank below the global median in terms of their density of doctors, nurses and midwives per capita.
Countries making the list have a density of doctors, nurses and midwives below the global median of 49 per 10 000. Zimbabwe, with a health worker density of 36 per 10 000, was added to the new list made up of countries that have vulnerable health forces; together with Rwanda, Comoros and Zambia.
The country has lost over 4 000 workers over the past two years, which includes 1 700 registered nurses who resigned in 2021 and over 900 who resigned in 2022, according to the Health Services Board quoted by Reuters.
The Zimbabwe Confederation of Public Sector Unions (ZCPTSU) says poor conditions which are still prevalent in Zimbabwe’s health sector have been forcing people to seek better opportunities outside the country.
“The major problem in the health sector is remuneration. That is the major problem which has seen people migrating out of Zimbabwe to rich countries where they will be offered better conditions and better pay,” says Charles Chinosengwa, the ZCPTSU organising secretary.
“Most of our hospitals have no resources. A patient may need oxygen, but then there will be none. In other cases, a patient may need paracetamol, then there will not be no paracetamol. Tools of trade are also pushing professional health workers out of the country.
“Others may have passion, but when they get to work, there will not be any tools of the trade, which is frustrating. You want to do surgery, some tools are missing. You want to just do daily routines in wards, and there is no personal protective clothing. At the end, the health worker may work, but the conditions are unfavourable.”
The union says the working conditions are set to worsen under new legislative framework bring pushed for by the government, which is aimed at preventing health workers from taking industrial action.
“There is also the new Bill which bars health workers from undertaking industrial action. So, in the end, the health worker is forced into migration where they will have better working conditions and better remuneration,” Chinosengwa said.
While the government this week hiked salaries for public servants by 100%, these have remained a shadow of what was before President Emmerson Mnangagwa came into power in 2017.
When he assumed power from the late former president Robert Mugabe in 2017 after a military coup, teachers among other public servants were earning an average of US$540, which they are now demanding.
Their proposal has remained lower than US$840 being demanded ZCPSTU for the lowest-paid public sector workers.
The desire by health workers to migrate to greener pastures has also seen the nurse aide certificate becoming Zimbabwe’s new gold.
As previously reported by The NewsHawks, the United Kingdom, is one of the countries paying nurse assistants lucratively.
As of May 2022, the United Kingdom said it needed 650 to fill 110 192 posts left vacant after the death of frontline health workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The shortages included 39 652 nurses and 8 158 medical doctors, according to quarterly data for vacancies published last year by the National Health Services.
Nursing assistants in the UK earn an average of £20 000 per annum (US$26 000), which translates to about US$2 100 per month.
Nurse aide certificates have become a prized possession in the country. Desperate Zimbabweans seeking to escape the country’s never-ending socio-economic crisis are flocking to different institutions that have sprouted offering the nurse aid training certificates.
A survey showed that registered institutions such as Angel Care Home, Ocean Bird Nurse Aide Training Centre, and One Africa Trust are charging between US$100 and US$200 for the qualification.