AS the nationwide strike by junior and senior doctors further cripples service delivery at public health institutions, the country’s largest referral hospital, Parirenyatwa Central, has closed its children’s emergency unit and 10 medical theatres leaving scores of patients stranded.
The strike, now in its third week, has put the lives of thousands under threat as the doctors are adamant they will not return to work until their demands are met.
Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) president Fortune Nyamande yesterday told the Zimbabwe Independent the situation at government hospitals nationwide was now dire and needed immediate government intervention. Nyamande said Parirenyatwa hospital yesterday closed its A2 emergency department for children under 12 resulting in kids being treated at the hospital’s main casualty ward.
“That is not the norm but then middle-level doctors have joined the strike. The conditions are shocking. Ten theatres have been closed and only two are working and these are specifically for emergency and trauma cases,” said Nyamande.
He said on average theatres would attend to between four and six patients per day. Among the wards affected is the cardiothoracic ward which deals with surgical treatment of diseases affecting the chest, heart and lungs.
Nyamande said: “Most theatres have been closed and those open are only dealing with critical conditions. Junior doctors play a critical role in these theatres. They prepare the patient for theatre; they do all the donkey work.”
He said according to a recent survey held at the hospital, the casualty ward handles about 25 000 to 35 000 emergencies per month.Nyamande said they were about two doctors at the labour wards while the neo-natal intensive care unit, specialising in the care of ill or premature newborn infants, was operating beyond capacity.
Meanwhile, in a memo to the chief executive officer, middle-level doctors at United Bulawayo Hospitals said because of the state of affairs at the hospital it was only “sensible” for them to handle “dire emergencies” only.
At Chitungwiza general hospital, 15 junior doctors have gone on strike.
Efforts to get a comment from Minister of Health David Parirenyatwa were fruitless as his mobile number was unreachable.
Junior doctors are demanding a review of their salaries from the current US$289 to at least US$1 200 a month. They also want their housing allowances increased significantlyfrom the current US$250 a month.