ZIMBABWE – The ongoing strike by over 300 junior doctors from Harare and Bulawayo has crippled service delivery at the country’s major referral health centres as negotiations between the doctors and Government drag on.
Most patients seeking treatment from the casualty and outpatients departments at institutions such as Parirenyatwa Hospital and Harare Central Hospital were being turned away as the few senior doctors available struggled to cope.
ZimDaily gathered that at Parirenyatwa Hospital most non-emergency cases that had been booked for theatre were cancelled indefinitely while the paediatric emergency department was closed.
In most medical wards like ward C8, which normally accommodates over 40 patients, only five patients were admitted as of the beginning of the week.
“In the casualty departments and in A1 where emergencies are usually attended to, a few nurses are seen turning patients away or referring them to private institutions while only extremely emergency cases are admitted,” said a source. The situation is the same at Harare Central Hospital where most wards were said to be empty.
At United Bulawayo Hospitals, middle level doctors who were filling in for the striking junior doctors said the situation had become unbearable for them.
“Considering the state of affairs at the hospital, it is more sensible for us as hospital medical officers to handle dire emergencies only. It is difficult to do any outpatient work and elective lists in theatre,” wrote the doctors in a memo addressed to UBH chief executive officer. A patient interviewed at Parirenyatwa Hospital said he had made several visits to the institution without receiving attention.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association yesterday said negotiations with the Government for a salary increment from US$282 to US$1 200 and better working conditions were slow.
“ZHDA wishes to condemn the current snail pace of negotiations whilst the ordinary citizens are suffering, children dying, women giving still births and the sick are helplessly returned to their homes without any solutions in sight,” it said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike said the upward review of salaries for junior doctors should be backed by a mix of incentives such as opportunities for professional development, meaningful career paths and training loans as well as improved working, living and social conditions.