A SURVEY by a civil society organisation, the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (Zimcodd), has revealed the continued dilapidation of the country’s health facilities, with most district hospitals in a state of disrepair.
Zimbabwe’s healthcare, riddled by dilapidating infrastructure, has largely been on a freefall, prompting patients to seek medical attention outside the country.
In a public resource management situation for April 2023 released this month, Zimcodd revealed that a paltry 4% of 57 districts surveyed have good healthcare facilities, with the majority (85%) reporting poor medical facilities.
“The quality of healthcare including health facilities in Zimbabwe is significantly dilapidating over the years largely due to the lack of sufficient budget support to acquire medication and medical equipment. This is coupled with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, increased volatility of the local currency, and poor corporate governance,” the report said “Poor infrastructure can demoralise healthcare professionals as they face difficulties in discharging their service to the nation. Also, the growing population, particularly in urban areas, is outpacing investment in new infrastructure like clinics, thereby overwhelming existing health facilities.”
Health workers have been finding greener pastures out of the country. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called out rich countries for poaching 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 ministry of Health and ministry of Finance must spearhead infrastructure rejuvenation programmes across the health sector. They must also ensure the availability of life-saving drugs,” reads the report.
The plunge in Zimbabwe’s healthcare has also been attributed to the incompetence of the Zanu PF government. This week, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Health revealed that radiotherapy cancer treatment machines at Mpilo Hospital — purchased by the taxpayer for US$2 million — have not functioned for four years because central government has not bought spares worth US$80 000.
The chairperson of the committee, Dr Ruth Labode, described the negligence and dereliction of duty as “sad”. Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo is a referral institution serving patients from Bulawayo and the Matabeleland region.
Many are succumbing to cancer amid the negligence. Government has however been painting a rosy picture of the situation.
Earlier this month in Parliament, Health minister Constantino Chiwenga said the majority of the country’s hospitals have functioning equipment.
“Seventy-eight percent of our district hospitals in Zimbabwe have fully functional operating theatres to perform emergency maternity surgery, and 93% have kits for resuscitating the new-born. About 50% of our secondary, tertiary and qua ternary level hospitals have functional chemistry and hematology machines in their laboratories,” he said in his ministerial address to Parliament on 31 May.
Chiwenga said: “96% of health facilities in Zimbabwe surveyed in Quarter 2 of 2022 had at least 80% of essential medicines in stock. This was shown in the Vital Medicines Availability and Health Services Survey (VMAHS), which is conducted every quarter, by an independent agency.
“The Vital Medicines Availability and Health Services Survey also showed that 88% of health facilities had at least 80% availability of selected antibiotics. Anti-retrovirals, anti-malarial and anti-TB medicines stocks have remained adequate over the years. To ensure improved availability of commodities, my Ministry continues to lobby Treasury for timely payment towards the capacitation of NatPharm.
“In addition, NatPharm was recently paid all outstanding debts owed by our health facilities. There is a gap in the funding of medicines as outlined in more detail in the Health Financing section of my address.”