THE Health and Child Care ministry was allocated $473,7 billion, representing 11,2% of the national budget, quite an improvement on the 2022 vote when the Health ministry received 10,6% of the national cake.
If all structures are in place, we expect an improvement in the health sector.
Many have doubted the country’s sincerity in its quest for universal health coverage considering that the allocation to the Health ministry falls short of the Abuja Declaration of 2001, whereby African countries agreed to allocate at least 15% of the national cake to health.
The Abuja Declaration seems unfeasible in many African countries that have to work tirelessly to fight poverty and hunger as a result of drought and many other reasons that can include infrastructure development.
Zimbabwe is currently involved in significant infrastructure development which has seen the construction of the imposing New Parliament Building in Mt Hampden, the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare Highway, the refurbishment of Beitbridge Border Post and the construction of the Great Zimbabwe School of Medical and Health Sciences, among many others.
My belief is that with financial discipline, the 11,2% allocated can take our country to another level.
It is not only the theoretical inadequacy of the money to the health sector that matters, but also the technicalities of the funding itself.
The World Health Organisation met African countries in Togo last week to deliberate on a number of health issues that are affecting the continent, especially now when COVID-19 is still a threat to humanity.
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If a country is to attain sound health status for its citizens, health systems should be oriented towards primary healthcare as the chief foundation of universal health coverage.
No country can boast of a robust health delivery system when the health fundamentals are not in situ.
In 2007, the World Health Organisation came up with a framework that sought to promote a common understanding of what constitutes a sound health delivery system.
Health and development are symbiotic in nature, hence the need for clever consideration of the health sector in our country.
If the country is to out-compete other African countries on health service delivery, a strong primary healthcare system should be established.
The characteristics of a sound primary healthcare system should include meeting people’s health needs throughout their lives, addressing the broader determinants of health through multi-sectoral policy and action and empowering individuals, families and communities to take charge of their own health.
Now that the allocation has been done, it is prudent that critical areas are addressed.
There is no doubt that the human resource issue is top on the list, with the realisation that the country has lost about 4 000 healthcare workers to the so-called greener pastures.
Staff retention should thus be given priority because workers need to have some forms of motivation.
There is no doubt that many hospitals have obsolete equipment and they are also in dire need of essential drugs.
It is incontrovertibly true that the country is in dire need of ambulances, radiological machines like X-rays, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, just to mention a few.
It is embarrassing to note that patients have to travel all the way to Harare from the country’s corners just to get magnetic resonance imaging scans.
The country has produced high calibre professors, doctors, nurses, scientists in the medical field and has thus become a training ground for many health professionals.
Maladministration in the public health institutions is rampant, with corruption being a scourge that needs serious punishments.
Many tenders are flouted in public hospitals and it is time that all loopholes are closed, if the 11,2% allocated to the Health ministry is to make sense.
As it stands, the few people in management seem to be the ones benefiting from proceeds of corruption, much to the chagrin of the rest of the workers, who feel neglected. The end result is demotivation.
It is also our prayer that Treasury releases the money in time so that the national health programmes are implemented early.
At no time should there be no drugs in hospitals since patients are always there.
The relationship with the donor community should never be underestimated as many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have played a pivotal role in health service provision.
For example, the United States Agency for International Aid, United Nations Children’s Fund, Humana, Danida and Population Services International have assisted the country in a number of ways in the health sector and their contributions have managed to keep the health of the nation afloat.
It is our hope that many more NGOs support us in our quest to achieve universal health coverage.
Can the nation achieve the expected health deliverables without adequate staff, without experienced and dedicated staff?
The answer is a simple no!
It is, therefore, wise to invest in the health workforce if we are to attain universal health coverage.