HARARE – An audit by government has laid bare the desperate situations at Chitungwiza Municipality-run clinics where staff does not use basic disease prevention consumables such as gloves — in addition to battling other myriad problems which include acute shortages of drugs.
As a result, the dire straits have raised fears of a rise in multi-drug-resistant infections.
Chitungwiza has four polyclinics, which cater for maternity and family health care services, and also offer dental and pharmaceutical services as well as voluntary HIV testing and counselling.
“I noted that the drug supply situation at these health institutions is not satisfactory as most essential drugs were usually out of stock and patients were often referred to pharmacies.
“The council clinics are solely relying on donated drugs and during the year under review, only $18 953 was channelled towards the purchase of drugs.
“I also noted that at the date of audit, the nursing service staff establishment was short-staffed by 14 midwives and 44 nurses and only 62 employees are employed out of the required 120,” said Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri in her 2016 report on local authorities.
Chitungwiza Municipality management said they had resolved to avail at least $10 000 every month for the procurement of drugs that are not availed at the government-run National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm) warehouse.
The municipality also pledged to buy two new ambulances.
Residents of Chitungwiza have consistently complained of poor services at the clinics.
Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) director Marvellous Kumalo said the situation of staff shortages in the town was aggravated by poor remuneration by the local authority which is also grappling with a huge salary backlog.
The Chitrest leader said the town has no doctor at its four clinics, leaving the bulk of most procedures to nurses who may be under-qualified for the tasks.
“Chitungwiza residents have become de-motivated to seek medical attention at council clinics because when they go there, they are only given painkillers, leaving the bulk of medicines needed to be bought at expensive pharmacies.
“The staff complement is also too little for the town’s ever-growing population.
“Currently, there is only one ambulance for the whole town and that is not enough.
“We have engaged the officials during yearly budget consultation meetings to increase the health budget and purchase at least one ambulance for each clinic, but nothing has happened.
“We even advised them to enter into strategic public-private partnerships to improve the health services,” Kumalo told the Daily News.
Zimbabwe’s health sector is struggling to provide meaningful services to millions of ordinary citizens due to poor funding.
Apart from funding challenges, most hospitals and clinics possess old equipment which is barely functioning — leaving desperate patients seeking services at better-equipped private surgeries and hospitals where fees are out of reach for many.