HARARE – About 100 doctors trained in Zimbabwe are unemployed, with most of them refusing to work in rural public hospitals.
It was hoped the new crop of doctors would alleviate the acute shortage of doctors in rural areas and take the lead in reviving a health sector devastated by one of the highest malnutrition and maternal mortality rates in southern Africa.
With few resources, career options and low salaries, rural hospitals are grappling to attract and retain doctors.
The Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima), a representative association for all medical doctors in Zimbabwe, claimed training institutions were churning out more doctors than public hospitals can absorb.
But government claimed the “apparent shortage” has been caused by the lack of interest by doctors to serve in remote hospitals.
“The apparent shortage of posts availability arises from two situations: firstly, some posts are in remote areas and colleagues generally leave these as the last choice,” Health ministry secretary Gerald Gwinji said.
“We have as we speak, 44 freed-up government medical officers (GMO) posts in the provinces available for take-up.
“Secondly, the inherent time required for administrative processes in carrying out relevant re-grading and promotions of the in-post doctors who are due to move up to higher level posts so that they free-up the appropriate level for GMOs. We are actively attending to the re-grading and promotions to free up GMO/HMO (hospital medical officer) posts. ”
Gwinji said if the issues mentioned were attended to, there will be 172 posts available for 2016.
“Our 2016 total local output into the GMO level is expected to be 123. In March/April, 81 senior residential medical officers became GMOs, we expect further injections of 16 in May/June, 16 in July and 11 in the August to December 2016 period.”
There are three medical schools in Zimbabwe, producing about 250 doctors yearly.
“For the first time, Zimbabwe has failed to absorb all the doctors who finished training in 2016. We now have unemployed doctors. This is after completing housemanship,” Zima said on a micro-blogging platform Twitter.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Zima said the world health indices show that the country needs doctors.
“About 93 finished internship, of these, 15 have come forward indicating they have failed to secure posts because they are full.”
A majority of all doctors trained in Zimbabwe leave within five years of graduation to practice abroad, often in Britain, the United States and Canada, in search of better pay and working conditions and career development opportunities.
Most public hospitals in Zimbabwe are being run by junior doctors because of the brain drain.
The Health Services Board (HSB), which is the health practitioners’ employer, said they had not been alerted of the situation.
“We have not been alerted that there is a case like this. The ministry of Health is the one that makes requests to us, in relation to employment of doctors,” HSB chairman Lovemore Mbengeranwa said.