THE strike by Zimbabwe’s health care workers threatens lives and will plunge the country’s ailing health sector into a deeper crisis. Health watchdog, Citizens Health Watch (CHW) believes that this, coupled with damning revelations about massive corruption in the procurement of Covid 19 supplies is undermining the country’s response to the virus.
Zimbabwe’s health care workers have for decades worked under extraordinary conditions in a healthcare sector that has been plundered by years of corruption, that is underfunded, has obsolete equipment and regular drug stock outs. The strike spells disaster in a country already reeling from economic and social decline. The deepening crisis in the health care sector is a damning indictment of the government’s health care policy.
Years of grinding poverty, recurrent strikes in the health care sector and more recently, reports of massive corruption in procurement of Covid 19 supplies, heighten the threat of an increased infection rate.
These recurrent, decades long strikes, the corruption, have shone the spotlight on the devastating effects of lack of transparency and accountability that is apparent in the health care sector. It brings into sharp focus government inadequacies and what we feel is inability to effectively invest in the health of its citizens,” said CHW’s trustee Fungisai Dube.
CHW is particularly concerned at what it believes is government failure to publicly speak to formally address the allegations of multi-million-dollar fraud in the procurement of Covid 19 suppliers.
Every week over the past three months, since the outbreak of the virus, there have been shocking revelations on corruption involving the inflation of the prices of supplies to tackle the virus, the use of briefcase companies to apply for government tenders.
These media revelations have sucked in senior officials at the very centre of government. Relaxed procurement measures have left the entire process of sourcing suppliers open to massive abuse. CHW monitors in Bulawayo and Harare that are monitoring the effects of the strike at major referral hospitals reported that health care workers abandoned their stations leaving patients vulnerable and hospitals critically short staffed. Moreover, covid 19 tests even for admitted patients still take as long as 7 days, as in the UBH covid positive case, clearly shooting ourselves and our healthcare providers in the foot.
What concerns CHW is the fact that Government efforts at resolving the heath care crisis have been piecemeal and year in year out we see health care workers continue in live in grinding poverty, appalling conditions of service, unable to offer service to a desperate public.
“Sadly government has failed to address the media revelations on large scale corruption, just as it has failed to offer lasting, sustainable interventions to address concerns of desperate health care workers who are stretched to the limit, have endured shocking working conditions, poor salaries and yet are expected to continue providing their services to deal with the virus,” said Fungisai Dube.
It is clear that Zimbabwe will not achieve universal health coverage unless action is taken to stamp out corruption.
“There is growing frustration among health care workers about government shortcomings and what appears to be the inability to prioritise the welfare of health workers, a of lack explanation on the extraordinary corruption revelations and how to deal with chronic stressors such as such as bad infrastructure, poor governance, all obstacles to the country achieving the millennium development goals,” said CHW trustee Fungisai Dube.