THE shortage of psychiatrists in Zimbabwe poses a threat to the country’s health sector as mental health practitioners are overwhelmed by the growing numbers of mental health cases around the country, a mental health practitioner has said.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
In an interview with HealthTimes after presenting on Mental health practice as a career for the future at the Zimbabwe Medical Students Association Annual General Meeting on Saturday, Dr Fungi Mazhandu said the country three private psychiatrists.
“Of the 17 psychiatrists we have in Zimbabwe, just three are in private practice full time. The rest alternate between Government and private practice,” she said.
While addressing medical students, Dr Mazhandu said most psychiatrists are based in the capital.
“We have seventeen psychiatrists in Zimbabwe. There is one with a sub specialty doing child psychiatry. We are located in Harare except for one who is in Bulawayo. Dr Mawere is in Bulawayo. We have one in Bulawayo and the rest are in Harare,” she added.
She also said the number of psychiatrists is likely to increase, marginally.
“There is Dr Madziro, she should be going at MSU next year. So she will be going to Gweru. There is one other guy who is coming in so next year we will be 18. The shortage of psychiatrists is not only limited to Zimbabwe but to several low to middle income countries,” she said.
Dr Mazhandu who is looking forward to become a forensic psychiatrist said it’s a myth that psychiatry is less rewarding.
“Globally, forensic psychiatry is the most paying job as one would have to deal with the legal issues and so forth. So its rewarding really,” she said adding, “I have been getting offers from the Prison Services, and at UZ where they also want me to lecture.”
She however said the number of patients in psychiatry might be minimal due to social, religious and economic factors.
Dr Mazhandu referenced World Health Organisation’s stance on mental health called MH Gap along with Dr Dixon Chibanda’s Friendship Bench program.
According to WHO, “The WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) aims at scaling up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders for countries especially with low- and middle-income.”
The programme asserts that with proper care, psychosocial assistance and medication, tens of millions could be treated for depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy, prevented from suicide and begin to lead normal lives– even where resources are scarce.”
The MH Gap seeks to capacitate nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and all involved in mental health.
In February this year, Masvingo Province was reported not to have a single forensic psychiatrist forcing it to rely on those in Harare and Bulawayo.