HARARE – Government must suspend the health sector recruitment freeze as hospitals are facing serious staffing shortages, Health minister David Parirenyatwa said.
In 2011, authorities imposed a recruitment freeze at State health facilities across the country in a bid to deal with an on-going funding crisis.
However, Parirenyatwa said the health sector desperately needs to employ more doctors and nurses.
“We have a shortage of nurses. The nurses are few and we need more. This issue of cutting down is not working, maybe it is in other sectors but in health it’s not. Right now we have 4 000 unemployed nurses, whom we trained in this country yet we need 8 000 nurses, we would want to absorb 8 000 nurses but we can’t,” he said at the launch of the National Health Strategy (NHS) in Murehwa on Wednesday.
“We must continue to talk to Treasury so that we get more nurses, doctors, all the health professionals,” he said.
The country now has a doctor-patient ratio of one per 250 000 inhabitants.
The World Health Organisation recommended standard is one doctor per 600 inhabitants.
Parirenyatwa said the issue of inadequate health professionals was exacerbating poor services at the country’s health institutions, with the health sector marked by an immense workload and workers grappling with massive stress.
Parirenyatwa said the NHS will address several issues affecting the health sector, including human capital.
However, its full implementation is hanging in the balance as it would require more funding from government as well as development partners.
In the $4 billion 2017 National Budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated a paltry $281 million to the health sector, with expectations that donors would complement.
“I have realised that here (at Murehwa District Hospital) there are four doctors, they are few. They will be rotating duties every day. We also have clinics here in Murehwa, and we need a doctor who will be going around those clinics,” Parirenyatwa said.
“We can’t have four doctors at a hospital. The same in Uzumba at Mutawatawa Hospital, there should be about five or six doctors, and another who goes around. And then we also want to have village health posts, with assistance from village health workers.”
“This document is addressing those issues. We want to decentralise services, to upgrade village health workers so that their allowances go up from $40 that they get a month because they do so much, and we often don’t recognise them.”
This comes as government has been struggling to secure employment in other countries for over 4 000 nurses who are stranded after completing their training.
Other health professionals are migrating in search of greener pastures outside the country’s borders. Poor working conditions, insufficient remuneration, delayed promotions, lack of recognition, and inability to afford the basic necessities of life are all cited as reasons for dissatisfaction.
This has negatively affected the quality of healthcare offered in most of the country’s health institutions.