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Hospitals turn away pregnant women

Health Minister, Constantino Chiwenga

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PUBLIC hospitals are reportedly turning away pregnant women due to lack of sundries needed for childbirth.

The dire state of the country’s health delivery system has prompted nurses to call for a “tools down” on Monday.

NewsDay has gathered that morale among health professionals was now so low that nurses were on Tuesday forced to notify the Health Service Board (HSB) of their plans to down tools in protest over poor working conditions.

“With reference to the above-mentioned subject, we wish to notify you that our members will not be able to turn up for duty starting on Monday June 20, 2022 until the following conditions are met,” Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president Robert Chiduku wrote.

Chiduku said they were demanding United States dollar salaries as the local currency continues to weaken while prices of goods and services skyrocket beyond the reach of many.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo also said their members were incapacitated to report for duty.

“Yesterday, (Tuesday) we got the shock of our lives to note that we received an average of $30 000 considering what is happening in the economy, where prices of goods and services are galloping,” Dongo said.

“These issues should be addressed as a matter of urgency. We are giving a warning to government that we declare incapacitation with immediate effect. We will take a position on what action to take with the state of incapacitation after full consultative meeting with our members.”

Health secretary Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza referred questions to the ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri, who also referred NewsDay to Health Service Board executive director Engelbert Mbengwa.

“The Health Service Board is our employer so the executive director (Mbengwa) is better placed to respond to the job action issue,” Mujiri said.

Mbengwa professed ignorance on the matter.

“I am out of Harare and my office is not aware that nurses want to go on strike,” Mbengwa curtly said

Public Service Commission secretary Jonathan Wutawunashe, however, said the National Joint Negotiating Council (NJNC) would meet on a date yet to be advised to discuss the salary concerns.

“It is in that context that constructive discussions on ways to address movements in the cost of living are conducted. It is expected that a meeting of the NJNC will be convened soon,” he said.

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said the planned nurses’ strike action spelt disaster for the country’s ailing health delivery system.

“Nurses’ strikes will definitely cause disaster in health institutions. We have been saying this over and over again that government needs to take the concerns of its workers seriously. Until those issues are addressed, we will continue to see such job action,” Matara said.

A memorandum from Harare’s Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in possession of the NewsDay directed to principal nursing officer, one Mpande from one Mukona said there was a crisis at the institution.

The memorandum, dated June 9, 2022, said the public hospital was facing shortages of surgical sundries such as bandages and razors, among others.

“Pregnant women who are in need of an operation are being sent back home to collect materials needed, just imagine, because the hospital is saying they have shortages of surgical materials,” a sources at the hospital said.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals spokesperson Linos Dhire yesterday told NewsDay that he was on leave before directing questions to acting spokesperson Sincere Shamu who denied the allegations.

“We have noted the allegations that pregnant women due for operations at Parirenyatwa are being sent home to collect materials needed for their surgery. The hospital is making all efforts to make sure all critical consumables required for operations are available,” Shamu said.

Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital in Mutare is facing both food and drug challenges.

The hospital’s medical Superintendent Dorcas Masanga Mutede yesterday refused to comment on the matter saying: “I have no comment, I am busy at the moment.”

The country’s health sector faces numerous challenges all linked to under-funding.

Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said: “The health budget remains grossly inadequate to fund the critical needs in the health sector within the context of chronic high inflation.”

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as Health and Child Care minister, once fired striking nurses.

Chiwenga has also introduced the Health Services Amendment Bill, which seeks to bar health professionals from participating in industrial action.

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