Health crisis: First things first

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VICE PRESIDENT and also Health minister Constantino Chiwenga on Tuesday tabled in Cabinet an ambitious restructuring strategy to transform public health delivery service which has been comatose for a considerable time.

Chiwenga said among his top priorities would be ensuring an end to the perennial industrial action by doctors, nurses and other health workers over remuneration and conditions of service, which include lack of personal protective equipment and critical shortages of drugs.

The strategy, he said, would be anchored on four pillars that include the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, ventilators, hospital beds and other essential equipment.

“The revamping of the health system is expected to result in robust medical services. It is expected that the wide ranging reforms will transform the health sector by introducing systems that work in the national interest,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told the media after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Chiwenga’s strategy is highly ambitious considering the state of the public health delivery system currently obtaining. Our system has almost completely collapsed. It needs a complete overhaul, a serious renewal.

The main challenge to overhaul it, as has become the norm, are financial constraints faced by the country. There is a need for huge cash, in hard currency, outlay to rejuvenate the public health delivery system.

The United Nations has already said the country needed US$85 million to have a well-functioning public health system.

It is our honest view that Chiwenga’s immediate task should be the return of nurses and doctors to health facilities and this can only be possible if he enters into a genuine and honest negotiation with the health workers.

Chiwenga must approach Treasury and seek a supplementary budget in the short term to ensure doctors and nurses are back at work, basic equipment is in health facilities and that drugs are available as we fight the lethal coronavirus.

In our view, that is the urgency of now.

We agree absolutely with the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) that Chiwenga must consult widely to come up with immediate or intermediate solutions to the health crisis.

Long-term solutions can be parked at the moment. We need resuscitation first.

“Maybe the government has not yet revealed its entire plan, but focusing on biomedical engineering and manufacturing hospital beds and ventilators does not solve the immediate problems bedevilling our health sector,” SHDA secretary-general, Aaron Musara, said.

We agree with Musara, let us have first things first!

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