ESCALATING shortages of healthcare workers in Zimbabwe have dented the country’s prospects of achieving World Health Organisation (WHO) set targets, a new report revealed this week.
WHO launched the Sustainable Development Goals SDGs in 2015, placing healthcare at the heart of several vital areas requiring attention.
The United Nations agency wants everyone to access quality health services, when and where they are needed, without being stressed financially.
In a publication titled Tracking Universal Health Coverage 2023, a global monitoring report, WHO exposed Zimbabwe’s weaknesses in terms of achieving the targets, but said the situation was worsened by the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
“Covid-19 had an impact on progress towards universal healthcare. The available evidence points towards a worsening of service coverage and financial protection during the pandemic,” the report said.
“The Service Coverage index stagnated globally between 2019 and 2021,” the report reads.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike gave the Independent a cocktail of factors affecting service delivery in the health system, including a staff exodus.
“Brain drain is one of the major challenges affecting Zimbabwe's public health care system,” Rusike said.
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“Doctors, nurses and pharmacists have left and continue to leave the country. The new Health Services Commission must address the glaring management and governance issues in health, and ensure that the employer of choice for all health workers is the central government as was the case in the past.
“Managing a professional workforce requires technical skill and capacity, and also humane traits and compassion that we find missing in the public health sector. This largely accounts for the mass exodus of our highly trained health workers to offer their service elsewhere,” he added.
Rusike said health workers required requisite equipment to work.
These tools include medicines, equipment, ambulances service vehicles, and new technologies in line with current best practices. He said in Zimbabwe, these were difficult to get.
Medical expert Hamadziripi Dube said there was a need to improve the working conditions of medical practitioners.
“Non-monetary and monetary incentives are required, in addition to giving them better salaries. This will prevent brain drain,” Dube said, adding that government should increase the training of health workers in critical departments.
Zimbabwe's failure to end the out-of-pocket health spending system has impeded access to healthcare.
“Introducing free health for all is the way, especially for rural communities. Subsidised user fees in health institutions and controlling the way private institutions serve communities,” Dube said.