Government must urgently address the health sector crisis
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition calls on the government to immediately respond to and address concerns raised by healthcare workers who went on strike this week demanding better working conditions and investment into the health sector.
The cost of living has been rapidly increasing over the past months as the government continues to fail to arrest the rising inflation and decline in the value of the local currency, which has left healthcare workers and other civil servants earning an equivalent of as little as US$50.
This is a giant reversal of the gains made by the country under the International Labour Organisation Decent Work Country Programme for Zimbabwe from 2012 to 2015,
The programme set out to ensure social justice in the world of work for all Zimbabweans, with its priorities being to promote productive employment and decent jobs, to improve the application and implementation of International Labour Standards, and to increase coverage of social protection as well as to guarantee a secure form of employment and safe working conditions.
We therefore call on the Minister of Health and Child Care, Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Vice President of the country to seize to be an absentee Minister and come out to attend to the crisis in the health sector which, if unabated, can have consequences on the lives of Zimbabweans who depend on nurses and doctors for their well-being.
We also call for a relook at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s deployment of an individual with another busy Vice Presidency role to a ministry which needs a hands-on approach and day-to-day attention.
We understand that the crisis in the health sector goes beyond the remuneration of healthcare workers.
Government has continuously failed to invest in the health and other social sectors for decades, leaving many people dying of treatable diseases and a visit to some public clinics and hospitals confirms the deplorable state of the institutions.
In some instances, there are no bandages, gloves, and syringes available and there are situations where patients are forced to wash and reuse bandages, increasing the risk of further infection.
Most of the equipment at the public health institutions is archaic and has broken down after years of neglect of the sector.
Patients have to part with as much as US$10.00 for consultation, in addition to having to fork out extra money to buy medication.
Private health care remains beyond the reach of many and it remains the government's obligation to provide quality and accessible health care as set out in Section 76 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which clearly states that every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to access basic health-care services, which include reproductive healthcare services.
It goes on to state that every person living with a chronic illness has a right to have access to basic health-care services for the illness.
In light of the attempt to enact legislation that bars healthcare workers from striking, we implore the government to desist from employing command tactics in dealing with employee demands.
The state must invest in upgrading the country’s health infrastructure and install state of the art lifesaving equipment and provide essential drugs and medicines.
The referral system needs to be vastly revamped by ensuring that district and provincial hospitals are adequately funded so that they are able to respond to all health cases.
We understand that the current situation has become untenable for many workers, especially those whose salaries are denominated in the local currency.
This calls for a united effort by all workers of Zimbabwe to demand decent wages, better economic management and transparency from the government.
We therefore urge Zimbabwean workers to join the nurses and doctors in solidarity as well as to amplify the call for government to implement people centred policies and to ensure that the vast proceeds from the country’s mineral wealth and other revenues are channelled not into the pockets of the few political elites, but towards the upliftment of the livelihoods of all Zimbabweans in general.
As a Coalition, we continue to stand in solidarity with members of the health profession as we believe that their demands, if addressed, will ensure that Zimbabwe’s health delivery will improve.