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Health status: Where are we today?

By Dr Johannes Marisa
Covid-19 continues to tear the world apart with super powers like the United States being hit heavily. The world now records more than three million cases of the virus daily with official deaths now hovering around 9 000 per day. The war seems far from being over.

Africa is a blessed continent as the numbers are dwindling and the severity of the Covid-19 is less than what used to be seen before. Despite our limited resources as a continent, we still managed to contain the dreaded virus.

The fourth wave is on its dying stages and it is not a surprise that many people did not even realise that the wave was present. The fourth wave was suspected to have been dominated by the Omicron, a new mutant virus of concern that has a constellation of mutations. The virus has fast transmissibility but seems less virulent though.

In as much as we want to keep the heinous virus under control, I think there are some measures that our country can scrap at the moment. The economy has to open now with priority being given to schools that have endured for long.  Covid-19 is a mysterious virus that has potential to strike again anytime. It is, therefore, prudent to move in positive directions, especially now when we are basking in sunshine having managed to contain the virus from all angles. We estimate that the fifth wave can strike around mid-June,  hence this is the right time to accelerate in terms of business emancipation.

The medical personnel has stood tall in their quest for candid health service delivery. The number of cases admitted with serious complications was not as high as during the third wave that was dominated by the notorious delta variant. Respiratory distress syndrome, thromboembolism, renal failure and pneumonia were common during the third wave and many lives were lost.

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. Government should take action on matters of national interest as they affect everyone. It does not need a rocket scientist to note the following:

Brain-drain in the health sector: I realised the gravity of worker migration when my friend, Susan Moyo (not real name), a renowned nurse midwife left just yesterday for the United Kingdom. This is one person who was dedicated to her country, but had no options except to seek greener pastures as she has a family to fend for. Zimbabwe continues to lose thousands of its experienced workers. Today, the United Kingdom boasts of about 4 780 health workers from Zimbabwe, second from Nigeria that has about 10 494 health workers working in UK. At least 2 200 health workers left Zimbabwe in 2021 for countries like Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, US. In 2020, about 1 100 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.

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 and accommodation for health staff. Health workers have been clamouring for vehicle loans, residential stands, farms and it is now a national anthem, alas, nothing concrete is coming up with the employer.

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.

Schools should be opened: It is not a secret that schools should be opened as Covid-19 cases are on the decline. Young children have always had an upper hand in terms of morbidity from the virus as they experience mild disease. Keeping our children out of school will work to fuel drug abuse, increase crime rate and further cripple our children mentally.

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!

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