Zimbabwe’s public hospitals have become death traps for patients due to the government’s failure to fund them, a nurses’ union has told a parliamentary committee.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) representatives in Harare said they were working under deplorable conditions, with shortages of drugs, equipment, and staff. They said many of their colleagues had left the country for better opportunities elsewhere.
“Why do our leaders go to Borrowdale Trauma Centre for medical services leaving our hospitals such as Harare and Parirenyatwa respectively? The good thing is we all die in the end,” said ZINA Harare province chairperson Lucas Sharara.
He said their salaries were too low to afford basic necessities such as cars, houses, or uniforms.
“It is better to be slaves somewhere if we can make a living than living under the current conditions,” he said.
ZINA Harare province treasurer Allan Nyamupinga said they had tried to engage the government but to no avail.
“We have written letters without getting any responses. Only two meetings had been held so far with the leadership of the new Republic’s Health ministry and this was only after protests by the nurses,” he said.
The nurses’ testimony came as Zimbabwe faces a new wave of Covid-19 infections and deaths that has overwhelmed the already fragile health system.
According to official statistics, the country has recorded more than 17,000 cases and over 400 deaths since March 2020. However, health experts say the actual figures could be much higher due to limited testing and reporting.
Doctors have also warned that the health system could collapse as hospitals are running out of oxygen, beds, and protective equipment. They have also complained of low salaries and lack of incentives.
In addition to the Covid-19 crisis, Zimbabwe’s hospitals are also struggling to cope with other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and cholera. Many patients are dying without receiving proper care or treatment.
Some hospitals have even stopped offering mortuary services due to power cuts, lack of refrigeration, and staff shortages. Relatives of deceased patients have to hire private vehicles or ambulances to transport their bodies to funeral parlours or burial sites.
Zimbabwe’s health sector has been in decline for decades due to economic mismanagement, corruption, and political instability. The situation has worsened since 2018 when President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa has promised to revive the economy and reform the health sector, but critics say he has failed to deliver on his pledges. They accuse him of prioritising his own interests and those of his allies over the welfare of ordinary Zimbabweans.
The parliamentary portfolio committee on health said it was concerned by the state of affairs in the health sector and vowed to take action.
“We are going to compile a report and present it to Parliament. We are also going to engage the relevant authorities to address these issues,” said committee chairperson Ruth Labode.