Great opportunity to tackle health sector woes

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Faith Zaba

OFFICIALS from the ministries of Health and Child Care and Finance, University of Zimbabwe’s medical school, donor agencies, non-governmental organisations and civil society, entrepreneurs, researchers, academia, as well as private sector players will in June converge on the resort town of Victoria Falls to proffer solutions to a plethora of challenges facing the health sector.

Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
fzaba@zimind.co.zw

The conference, being organised by Alpha Media Holdings, publishers of NewsDay, Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard, is the first of its kind. It will facilitate conversations and partnerships that will help to reposition Zimbabwe to become a key regional health referral country in Africa.

This is a great opportunity for key players in the health sector to converge, as they try to proffer solutions to the country’s collapsing health delivery system.

The conference gives a platform to the private and public sectors, donor organisations such as the World Health Organisation, World Bank and United Nations Children’s Fund to sit down together and engage on issues such as deteriorating healthcare facilities, an acute drug shortage, frequent strikes by medical practitioners and skyrocketing general medical costs.

Thousands are dying each year from preventable and curable diseases. Prices of life-saving drugs and consultation fees for specialist services have more than quadrupled, making healthcare unaffordable and inaccessible to a poor majority. This has put at high risk the lives of millions of Zimbabweans. One critical issue the conference should discuss is the preference by pharmacies, private doctors, laboratories, medical diagnostic imaging centres and hospitals to peg fees in United States dollars and using the parallel market rates for RTGS payments.

As healthcare costs continue to spiral, more and more people seem to be skipping visits to specialist doctors, opting for untested herbal treatment. Many can also no longer afford drugs for chronic illnesses, which can ultimately lead to fatal repercussions. Chronic illnesses are responsible for at least 50% of total deaths that occur worldwide. Skipping or delaying medical attention or treatment impacts on the quality of care and outcome. These issues are some of the matters the conference will discuss.

Officials from the ministries of Health and Finance and the head of the Medical School are panellists in a discussion titled: Solving Key Issues Regarding the Health Sector.

Let us hope they will discuss public health institutions, which have become death traps. Government cannot continue to pay a deaf ear to the problems at public health facilities.

AMH should be commended for bringing these stakeholders together to find solutions to the problems in the health sector. What Zimbabwe needs are well-equipped and resourced world-class hospitals. Government also has to prioritise healthcare and allocate money in line with the Abuja Declaration of 2001 and not the 9% the health sector received in the 2019 national budget. AMH, as a platform for thought-leadership, needs to be applauded for organising such a conference to be held from June 14 to 16, which will officially be opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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