BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA
AN audio clip of a Covid-19-infected person admitted at a government hospital in Manicaland province, narrating alleged medical negligence by hospital staff reportedly prior to his death, has exposed the ill-treatment patients endure at state-run health institutions.
While complaints of negligence have been rampant even at private hospitals since the outbreak of the deadly pandemic in the country in March last year, health officials have also complained about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
PPE is a necessity for health workers to protect themselves from the highly infectious disease.
In the heart-rending audio, the unidentified male patient clearly struggles with his breathing and takes long pauses in-between words as he fights for life which he says he was about to lose if he was not connected to a ventilator.
“Bye guys, I was admitted more than 30 minutes ago and nobody has attended to me. So, I am going gentlemen, mosara zvakanaka (farewell),” he says, as he struggles to speak.
“We shall not see each other again. I have got not more than one hour (of life) without the required oxygen supply, but anyway, that’s life. I thank you for the lives we led together. To those I sinned against, please forgive me. We will see each other by the will of the Lord,” the patient says in the audio.
He then pleads with his friends and relatives to take care of the family he is leaving behind and shares pictures of another male patient who had fallen off his hospital bed.
“Please take care of my family; that is my wish, again I say goodbye,” he says.
“In that picture (which is too sensitive to print), I am showing you another man who dropped dead from his bed about 45 minutes ago and has not been assisted. I am here at Rusape General Hospital and am dying.
“We can’t refuse to die, but we want access to services, not a situation whereby a patient goes for five hours without being attended to,” he says, ending the voice recording with desperate cries: “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter!”
Efforts to get comments from Deputy Health and Child Care minister John Mangwiro were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere, who also chairs the provincial Covid-19 taskforce, said she had not received reports of the incident.
“We can’t take things from the social media. If there is a victim of any sort, they should report to responsible authorities.
“Why go on social media,” she said.
“We have been lied to too many times by reports on social media. So I urge that if they are genuine, they should come forward and we can assist them accordingly.”
Years of neglect and doctors’ strikes have pushed the Zimbabwean health system to the brink, but the Covid-19 pandemic has brought in challenges never seen before.
For instance, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, the country’s largest referral hospital, was refurbished with 300 beds and piped oxygen, but it turns away many patients because it only has enough staff to attend to 30 beds.
“This is so very sad and wrong,” a Harare doctor said this week referring to the audio.
Another doctor said: “I am going to share with colleagues. It’s very unfortunate. I am sure when people hear of this they will be moved to change.”
Nurses Association of Zimbabwe president Enock Dongo said: “PPE is still a major challenge in our hospitals and clinics, which is why we are seeing a number of nurses being infected with Covid-19. It’s a major predicament which the whole world is facing.”