Govt must prioritise health system


HARARE – It has become common for indigent families to launch heart-wrenching appeals for funds to take relatives for medical treatment abroad.

Most tear-jerking of these appeals relate to children. Recently, the family of five-year-old Natasha Sanyanga, launched an appeal for $100 000 to pay for a life-saving bone marrow transplant in India.

The parents opted for India because treatment is not available in Zimbabwe.

Treatment in South Africa, while closer, turned out to be more expensive. Last week, parents of Bridgette Mandimutsira, also five, who suffers from a condition called xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), a skin disease, appealed for $2 500 so she can undergo medical treatment in South Africa.

These appeals will not be the last; society’s heartstrings will continue to be tugged.

It is also possible that many poor families needing help may not be taking to the media to make appeals to the public, resigned to fate.

Yet the burden of health provision should not fall on donors from our society.

The responsibility should fall on the government developing a good health delivery system that caters for all.

Our leaders can hop onto a plane for treatment abroad though is a rather shameless indictment of a health system whose deterioration they have presided over but now shun.

Natasha and Bridgette do not have privileged lives; they have to endure the indignity of begging publicly. 
Our public health delivery system as a whole is in a deplorable state.

Recently, the Daily News ran a series that exposed the terrible conditions at our major hospitals.

Last week, David Parirenyatwa, the minister of Health and Child Care, witnessed how Harare Hospital is virtually falling apart.

More than 30 years after independence, we continue to leg behind our neighbours, South Africa, in particular, which has attracted thousands of our citizens, let alone specialist personnel.

A recent report in the state media stated that nearly half the posts for specialist medical personnel in public health institutions are vacant owing to the government’s failure to offer attractive conditions of service.

Consultants Proserve noted that as of July this year 470 posts from an establishment of 1 117 were vacant.

There are only seven specialist doctors at major referral hospitals out of an establishment of 26.

Yet you are sure to find Zimbabwean medical specialists in other countries. And for all our woes, we have found a convenient buzzword: sanctions.

A cloak of secrecy continues to cover diamond revenue that could turn the fortunes of this country.

We claim that China, a rising power in global political and economic relations, is one of our friends.

But we do not seem to gain much from relations with such a powerful friend.

Instead, we have granted the Chinese rights to exploit our minerals, diamonds to be specific.

But it does not appear the country is reaping much in return for the preferential selection of these ravenous Easterners to enjoy our resources.

In the spirit of quid pro quo, the collapsing health delivery system could do well with assistance from these so-called friends.

More than 30 years after independence, the likes of Natasha and Bridgette should be treated in our own country. We should be able to carry out bone marrow transplants and treat skin diseases.

Zimbabwe does not deserve to be where it is: we remain a tragic paradox.

Independent, richly endowed, yet so pitifully underdeveloped.

A government, after being voted into power, should justify its existence; it is judged by how it takes or facilitates care of its people, not least the infirm.

The health system is thus a measure of good governance. 

But when a government refuses to account for its diamond revenue and prioritises the shipment of a fleet of expensive cars for ministers, for instance; the same ministers who enjoy medical treatment abroad, it loses its role of serving the people.

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