HEALTH and Tuberculosis experts have warned that the prevailing human resources shortages in the health sector were crippling Tuberculosis (TB) related interventions as the number skilled personnel experienced in TB management were also leaving the country in droves.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Kwekwe
The call comes in the midst of one has been termed the worst health sector exodus in decades whereby skilled health personnel have been resigning on a daily bases from both government hospitals and council clinics.
In an interview with HealthTimes on the side-lines of a Tuberculosis Caucus meeting in Kwekwe, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health Chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode said government was not prioritising the health care sector crises and this will have irreversible negative health outcomes.
The issue of human resources is actually a sad story because it seems like government thinks it is okay for us to train for other nations. We just keep training and people keep going. It’s a very simple solution here. The health workers must be remunerated.
“There is this lethargy and lack of speed and lack of seriousness, lack of focus and not believing that if you give workers money, they will do their job. Workers are humans, they have families, they have transport issues, they have housing issues, they need to feed their families, they need to travel to work so they need to be paid, it’s that simple,” said Dr Dr Labode.
She added that TB care was a major causality to the prevailing exodus of skilled healthcare personal.
Dr Charles Sandy, the National TB Programme Manager in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said TB interventions in the country were being hindered by inadequate human and financial resources.
“The challenges we are experiencing are going to persist throughout the lifespan of the strategic plan, we therefore need all hands on deck to indicatively and continuously identify national resources for a more robust response. When you look at 2021, you realise that we are still struggling to have adequate resources.
“The lockdown itself has also presented the barriers to care access and also led to a drop in community based interventions. Coupled with that is the human resources aspect. The health professionals are leaving the service be it government be it city health department and the main reason is that the conditions of service are felt not to be adequate and opportunities are now easier outside the country because the western world needs the workers.
“We have a very big dilemma as a country on what do we do to stem the departure of our healthcare workers and we should be really assist the ministry in terms of better ways of keeping our health workers inn improving the conditions of service, increase the production of training school,” said Dr Sandy.
He added that the Ministry of health’s vision is to see a TB free Zimbabwe and to do so government aims to increase treatment coverage, increase treatment success for both drug sensitive and drug resistant TB, and also promote HIV testing so that TB patients is tested for HIV and those who are found positive will be initiated in Antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has since been removed from the global high burden countries list. However, the obtaining health sector crises could see more TB patients missing on treatment and care which could further lead to worse outcomes such as Drug Resistant TB. Zimbabwe continues to be in what is called the Global Watch list. There are several global TB commitments, for example the Moscow declaration, the UN high level meeting, the SDGs, the END TB strategy among others.
Dr Mkhokeli Ngwenya, the World Health Organisation (WHO) National Professional Officer for TB and Hepatitis said globally TB targets were off the track globally and in Zimbabwe, the human resources crises would derail the envisaged targets if not addressed.
“The WHO End TB strategy is aligned to the sustainable development goals. There are three main indicators in the END-TB strategy, the first one is the reduction of TB deaths by 95%, for incident rate by 90% in 2025 and then TB related catastrophic costs are aimed to go down to 0%.”