Zimbabwe: Training intensified to ease nurse shortage

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 19 July (IRIN) - The Zimbabwean government has stepped up efforts to train more primary healthcare workers amid growing concern over deteriorating healthcare delivery in rural areas.

According to the official Herald newspaper, rural hospitals and health centres urgently needed 3,337 nurses.

A government probe showed that 40 percent of rural healthcare centres were serviced by untrained nurses, while rural district council clinics had a shortage of 1,278 nurses.

Health officials have embarked on an ambitious training programme that expects to have at least one trained nurse stationed at all rural health centres by January 2007, after more than 6,000 graduate from training schools throughout the country.

At least 200 of the 270 inaugural graduates of the primary care nurse programme have already been posted to rural health centres, hospitals and mission hospitals.

Health and Child Welfare Minister David Parirenyatwa told IRIN on Tuesday that training more primary healthcare nurses would boost health delivery services and that, despite the use of primary health care workers instead of registered nurses in rural areas, national standards of medical care would not be compromised.

"The [health] ministry will do everything to support the training programme, in view of current staff shortages. It is our wish to have every rural health centre staffed by at least one qualified nurse and auxiliary assistants by the end of the year." Parirenyatwa said.

Zimbabwe admitted earlier this year that the country was still losing trained medical personnel to neighbouring and overseas job markets, which offered better opportunities and conditions of service. The government had turned to recruiting doctors and medical specialists from Cuba and Egypt to alleviate shortages.

However, despite the establishment of several commissions and boards to spearhead the revival of the health sector over the past two years, the shortage of human and financial resources has stalled these efforts.


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