Zimbabwe's health delivery service has collapsed, say doctors

Harare/Johannesburg_(dpa) _ Zimbabwe's health delivery system has collapsed amid worsening shortages of nursing staff and a doctors strike, a local doctors group said Friday.

Inadequate remuneration and unacceptable working conditions for health workers across the country have resulted in a crisis that has left the country's major referral hospitals unable to function, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said in a statement.

The emptying of central and other hospitals of staff, and therefore of patients, means the health service has collapsed, it said.

Some junior doctors at Harare's two major hospitals began a strike late last month. Nurses too are reported to be staying away because they cannot afford to pay bus fares to work.

Independent reports said on Thursday that around 200 doctors at major hospitals in Harare had decided to join in the strike action to press for higher pay, car loans and better working conditions.

The loss of life and increased morbidity resulting from the absence of health workers at their places of work, whether resulting from inability to pay for transport or from actual strike action, remains the responsibility of the government, ZADHR said.

Junior doctors are reported to be earning a basic salary minus allowances of just 252,000 Zimbabwe dollars per month, less than one US dollar a day at black market rates.

The cost of living is spiralling upwards on a daily basis in crisis-riddled Zimbabwe, where the annual rate of inflation has reached 3,714 per cent.

Doctors in Harare and the second city of Bulawayo only went back to work in March following a two-month-long strike begun in December.

The authorities had to bring in the army to help run city hospitals. So starved of local staff are rural clinics that 136 Cuban doctors have had to be brought in to staff them. dpa rt pmc


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