By Dr Johannes Marisa
The year 2021 was a miserable for many people with even illustrious people succumbing to the heinous Covid-19 with many others suffering from the effects of the coronavirus.
In 2007, the World Health Organisation came up with a framework for good health delivery service.
These were labelled as the building blocks of health service delivery and included here are health workforce, leadership, health delivery service, medicines, financing and information systems.
A robust health service is made up of candid structures that derive their strengths from the mentioned pillars.
The year 2021 had three intertwined waves of the Covid-19 with the second wave extending from December 2020 and lasting up to March of 2021 while the third wave had the delta variant strangulating people from end of June to end of August.
July became the deadliest month ever since the emergence of the coronavirus with over 1000 deaths. The number of cases admitted with respiratory complications was unprecedently high and many hospitals were overwhelmed fast.
The health professionals remained astute and focused and the country managed to contain the virus with government imposing lockdowns, enhancing vaccination processes, scaling up testing and creating more beds for admission.
All health professionals were permitted to attend to Covid-19 patients from anywhere and many patients at least managed to access some health service.
There was to be the natural grace period between September and November 2021 before the emergence of the 4th wave which had extraordinary panic from global super-powers when a new variant of the Covid-19, the Omicron, was reported on 24 November from South Africa before being declared a variant of Concern by WHO on the 26th of November 2021.
Our health delivery service was marred by serious challenges that continue to threaten us as a nation. It is time some of these ills are taken seriously if we are to be a strong country health-wise.
Health and development are symbiotic in nature and it is thus imperative to understand that there is no meaningful development that comes without a robust health delivery.
As we round up 2021, the year 2022 should see us improving on numerous areas which surely need the collaboration of key stakeholders who include government, churches, health workers, non-governmental organisations, financial institutions and local authorities.
It is quite appalling that the following are real factors that deserve special attention in 2022:
Brain- drain in the health sector—2021 becomes one of the worst years in the history of Zimbabwe if worker migration is to be talked of.
Today, the United Kingdom boasts of about 4780 health workers from Zimbabwe, second from Nigeria that has about 10494 health workers working in UK.
At least 2200 health workers left Zimbabwe in 2021 for countries like Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, USA.
In 2020, about 1100 health workers left Zimbabwe while in 2019, only about 700 health workers deserted our country for greener pastures.
If the rate of staff turn-over is not slowed down, I foresee many public clinics and hospitals running with skeleton staff in 2022, a development likely to further cripple the health sector. Action is urgently required in order to stem brain drain and that should see an improvement of remuneration, heightened worker motivation, better incentives amongst other benefits.
Husky and incontrovertible actions are supposed to be taken especially by government. Why is there no plausible action when the health sector is drowning?
Uncompetitive remuneration—health workers have been crying about poor salaries and benefits which have haunted them for long. The policy makers have come up with a raft of measures some of which have died a natural death as there is often lack of implementation.
The inter-ministerial taskforce considered a number of factors which included the need for wi-fi, food, accommodation for health staff.
Health workers have been clamouring for vehicle loans, residential stands, farms and it is now national anthem, alas, nothing concrete is coming up with the employer.
It is time all the involved ministries put their heads together in a bid to bring relief to the disgruntled health workers.
The year 2022 should be a year of action because failure to act will see the further demise of the health sector, a development that is detrimental to the nation at large in view of the ravaging effects of the coronavirus.
Where are the Ministries of Finance and Local government to collaborate with the ministry of Health to salvage the health worker catastrophe?
Corruption in the health sector—This scourge remains pertinent if the nation is to archive its vision of a robust health delivery service.
Many cases of corruption have been reported at hospitals where tender procedures have been flouted by those responsible for purchasing.
Recently, the Supreme Court upheld a judgement by the High Court where the Judicial Services Commission sought to confiscate Russell Tatenda Mwenye’s Ruwa property which was said to have been bought from the proceeds of corruption. Corrupt tendencies are rampant at many levels of health leadership. Surprisingly, the same people who are known to be pursing this unethical act, remain in office as if they are the only ones who can occupy the respective offices.
The ministry of Health should seriously investigate corruption in the health sector and take appropriate action in order to bring sanity.
We hope for a better 2022 in terms of health service delivery.
All ills should be nipped in the bud for a better Zimbabwe. Say no to corruption and save the nation from collapse. Let us all value our health workforce!