ZIMBABWE’S medical doctors have come out guns blazing against the recently announced plan to integrate a National Health Service program, an ideological orientation initiative within the Public Service Academy curriculum for medical doctors and other healthcare workers.
By Michael Gwarisa
Cabinet recently announced through the information minister, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa that plans were underway to introduce the program in institutions that train healthcare workers as part of efforts to halt the hemorrhaging of skilled healthcare personal.
In an interview with HealthTimes, Senior Hospitals Doctors Association of Zimbabwe (SHDA) president, Dr Shingai Nyaguse said government should instead address the real issues causing the brain drain.
We appreciate that government has now realised the urgency of dealing with brain drain in the health sector. While it’s good that the cabinet sanctioned committee is looking into these matters, as long as there is no engagement with the actual workers on the ground, their efforts will not have the desired effect.
“We don’t see how this orientation will help workers feed their families and have a decent standard of living. As long as issues of remuneration and working conditions are not addressed in a material and tangible way, the current trend shall continue and may accelerate,” Said Dr Nyaguse.
Zimbabwe has been hit by what could be the worst exodus of healthcare personal amidst indications that more than 2400 nurses and doctors might have abandoned the public healthcare sector or greener pastures between 2020 and 2021.
Dr Nyaguse however added that Zimbabwean doctors have exhibited some resilience and patriotism over the past few years despite the prevailing challenges.
“Several doctors have come back to Zimbabwe after specialising in the diaspora and many continue to offer services in the public health sector despite the challenges. This demonstrates innate patriotism. The employer should focus on upholding their end of the contract.”
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) Secretary General, Dr Norman Matara said the proposed ideological orientation through the National Health Service program was an insult to the healthcare profession.
“The decision by the government is actually a futile exercise and it’s insulting to healthcare workers and it will not result in any meaningful benefit to the healthcare sector. It actually shows that the government does not have a clue or they are voluntarily not doing what they must be doing in terms of stopping the brain that has been happening. This move of an ideology training is something that we condemn with the contempt that it deserves
“The push factors that are pushing healthcare workers out of the country are known and healthcare workers have been voicing their concerns for the past for years and we don’t think that an ideology training for healthcare workers is the solution to all this . Health care worker simply need to have their remuneration improved, they need the working conditions to be improved and they also just need basic equipment and sundries to use in the hospital and if the government just does that, people will stop migrating to other countries,” said Dr Matara.
Zimbabwe recently proposed a Health Service Amendment Bill whereby members of the health industry will be barred from participating in strikes that last longer than three days, or more than 72 hours in a two-week period.
Under the bill, health-care workers are obligated during any collective job action, “to provide the skill, expertise, care and service to patients in a medical emergency or needing critical or intensive care,” according to the bill. However, to avoid getting fired or victimised, healthcare workers in Zimbabwe have since resorted to resigning as the only means of showing their disgruntlement towards the status-quo.