Published On: Tue, Jan 3rd, 2017

Shortage of medical doctors hits southern Zimbabwe

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MASVINGO- The shortage of medical doctors has reached alarming levels in southern Zimbabwe where  at least five  rural districts  are operating without a single medical doctor.

The situation has  compromised the health standards of thousands of villagers in the country.

Acting Masvingo provincial medical director  Dr Julius Chirengwa said so bad is the situation that some rural service centres are now
manned by nurse aids instead of qualified nurses.

Chirengwa said there were no permanent medical doctors in Bikita,Chiredzi, Chivi,Mwenezi,and Zaka districts all in southern
Zimbabwe  as doctors shun operating in rural areas.

He said   ideally Masvingo province  in southern Zimbabwe should have 87 medicals doctors but  currently only  50 were available.

He added that the 50 medical officers were not enough to  service the whole southern part of the country now believed to be home to over  4
million people.

“We are supposed to have 87 doctors  in the whole  Masvingo province alone,”said Chirengwa.

 “The 50 medical officers we have are not adequate to service the whole province that is why you see long and winding queues at several hospitals,” said Chirengwa.

Of concern Chirengwa  said  were wayward doctors who spend most of their time at their own private surgeries and not at work.

He said this has compromised the healthy delivery system in the
country.

He said his ministry is investigating all errant medical doctors employed by the ministry of Healthy and Child Care who spend most of their time treating patients at their private surgeries .

He said disciplinary action would betaken against those medical doctors who abscond from work to attend to the private business.

In Zimbabwe medical doctors are allowed to operate their own private surgeries while at the same time employed by the government.

Chirengwa however said that although doctors are allowed to have their own surgeries they are not allowed to abandon patients at public
hospitals to do their own private jobs.

He added that the situation was worsened by the fact that currently medical doctors choose where they want to be stationed unlike in the
past where they were deployed by the parent ministry.

He said this has resulted in  most medical officers shunning rural areas thereby compromising the health standards of thousands of
villagers.

He said communities had the right to complain whenever they see an errant medical doctor so that investigations would be carried and
ultimately disciplinary action will be  taken.

Villagers in the affected districts have complained bitterly over the
shortage of medical doctors .

“We are appealing to government to seriously look into the issue of our health by making sure that at least each district has a medical
doctor,”said Mafios Mukova of Chivi district in southern Zimbabwe.

“Right now we have to travel long distances either to urban areas or growth points to see medical doctors,”he said.

“Several people are dying before getting the necessary medical attention because of shortage of doctors,  ”he added.

Health and child care minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said he was  not aware of the problem .

He  however said government will soon introduce rural allowances for medical doctors as a way of attracting them to work in rural areas.

“We understand that it is a right for one to get medical care but as it stands government has to look into the issue and introduce rural allowances as a way of attracting medical doctors, ”he said.

“We have to make sure that people in the country have adequate medical facilities including access to doctors irrespective of where they are in the country, ”he said.

The Zimbabwean government has  frozen the recruitment of new staff into the civil service arguing that it has no money to pay them.

This has seen  several nurses becoming redundant after completing their courses.

President Robert Mugabe has since called for the lifting of the freeze in the health and education sector but nothing has been done to date.

Finance minister  Patrick Chinamasa has said that the current wage bill was unbearable where over 80 percent of the  government’s total
income was going towards civil servants salaries.

The Zimbabwean government is currently battling to pay its bloated civil service on time.