#BREAKING: Midwives Crises Hits Mbuya Nehanda Maternity Unit

MBUYA Nehanda Maternity division, one of Zimbabwe’s largest maternity units located at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, is battling serious shortages of skilled midwives amidst indications that the facility recently experienced an incident whereby only one midwife ended up attending to at least 26 pregnant women.

By Michael Gwarisa

A visit by this publication to the facility in on Friday, 29 October, 2021 revealed that only one midwife was on duty for several hours while at least 26 women waited to be attended. Some of the women who were visibly in pain, could be seen desperately pacing up and down the hallway while some who had already delivered were also waiting to be attended by the same nurse.

We have been here and have been told to wait. I came here yesterday and it appears there is only one nurse or midwife attending all these women you see here today. I am due anytime today and I hope when that happens, the situation would have normalised,” said one pregnant who requested anonymity.

Speaking to HealthTimes on the development, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals spokesperson, Mr Linos Dire however said the situation has since been rectified.

“While we are experiencing a critical shortage of midwives, the circumstances of that particular day were such that at one point, we had a single midwife in our antenatal ward as two of the other nurses fell sick unexpectedly but the matrons immediately rectified the situation and nothing noteworthy occurred. The Ministry is working flat out to address the issue of the shortage of specialized nurses,” said Mr Dire.

Midwives are a group of specialized nurses or health professionals who care for mothers and new-borns around childbirth.

The maternal health situation at Mbuya Nehanda hospital however is a reflection of the midwife crises obtaining across the country according to health watchdog, the Citizen Health Watch (CHW). Fungisai Dube, a Trustee with the Citizens Health Watch said there is need for government to act swiftly and address the prevailing human resources crises as the situation was deeper than meets the eye.

“The maternal health situation in the country has reached critical and alarming 
levels and like any other sector within the healthcare system, you find that the
maternal department has not been spared from the effects not only of COVID-19 but
of a deteriorating healthcare system whose deterioration has been unabated for
years.

“You find that COVID-19 came and yes there was loss of lives but for us, the biggest loss was that most of our healthcare personnel left and are still leaving. The first world has opened its boarders specifically for such skills and our retention capacity has been at its weakest. It is not surprising that there is a midwives crises at Mbuya Nehanda and it is something that we have also observed in most of the facilities right across the country. There has been a huge exodus, not only of the midwives but of all the other health personnel,” said Dube.

She added that the advent of the COVID-19 had also shifted attention towards the pandemic yet there are other health challenges equally devastating and threatening the very existence of the health sector and the healthcare human resource crises could do worse if not nipped in the bud.

“We have struggled over the years to maintain a proper health workforce. Remember we have spent a couple of years having frozen recruitment of nurses into various posts and that in itself, left us already at a very weak position before the COVID-19 struck and before the unprecedented exodus that we are experiencing right now.

“The government needs yes to continue focusing on COVID-19 but there is need to focus on COVID-19 whilst focusing on other sectors. We need to remunerate our health personnel adequately. The world itself is going through a serious health crisis and we can’t be losing our health personnel in the manner that we are doing. Yes we need to be incentivizing the profession, we need to deliberately have a strategy that ensures we retain the health workforce, we can’t keep ignoring o turning a blind eye on what is exactly happening. We need more of a political will to address this crises.”

Meanwhile, government has hinted on plans to introduce non-monetary incentives to cushion healthcare workers against a myriad of daily challenges and needs.

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