HARARE – The government’s decision to recruit 8 500 nurses will not only ease the current healthcare burden in public health institutions but will also go a long way in reducing the number of unemployed nurses in the country.
Health minister David Parirenyatwa this week noted that government has finalised its audit and realised there was need to recruit more nurses to fill in vacancies in under-staffed clinics and hospitals across the country.
Since his re-appointment to the portfolio in 2013, Parirenyatwa is now coming back to his senses and we hope this decision will be fully implemented to ensure that the current under-paid and overworked nurses have something to smile about.
Freezing of posts for the healthcare workers was implemented by the State when the country adopted the multi-currency regime in 2009 after it was realised that government could not sustain the wage bill of about 200 000 civil servants due to a poorly performing economy.
However, the freezing of posts was not supported by a corresponding freezing of nurse training, a situation that not only saw over 5 000 trained nurses being unemployed but also put a strain on public health institutions which are failing to cope with increased number of patients.
In a normal environment, the ideal nurse-patient ratio is one nurse for every four patients, but in Zimbabwe one nurse attends to at least 15 patients at any given time, compromising the quality of health services rendered.
Zimbabwe’s health services sector has over the years been ravaged by lack of funds to conduct various programmes, resulting in serious shortages of nurses and drugs.
In the late 1990s, some doctors and nurses angered by low pay and allowances left for greener pastures in countries like Australia, Britain, South Africa and New Zealand.
By 2000, a large number of these professionals had left the country, leaving State institutions barely managing to provide basic services and suffering from severe brain drain.
The situation worsened when historic inflation devastated the Zimbabwe dollar following unprecedented economic decline in the country between 2001 and 2009.
It was during this period that, according to the United Nations, a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe claimed more than 4 000 lives by March 2009 after affecting 90 000 people.
Despite these challenges, health practitioners and advocates have continued to work within the sector attempting to smoothly facilitate health delivery, so it is only proper that their efforts are recognised.