Specialists' shortages hit Bulawayo hospitals

BULAWAYO - Government hospitals in Bulawayo have been hard hit by shortages of specialists, a situation which has seen patients being referred to expensive private hospitals.

Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH), which serve over one million residents, are reeling from the effects of brain drain that has hit the country since economic woes started at the turn of the decade.

Addressing a pre-budget meeting in Bulawayo recently, Mpilo Hospital chief executive officer Wedu Ndebele pleaded with government to offer better packages to health specialists for them to stay at state hospitals.

“We have serious shortages of specialists at Bulawayo state hospitals. Most have left the country for greener pastures because of unattractive packages. Right now UBH has no paediatricians as all of them left in 2005. At Mpilo we only have two,” said Ndebele.

A paediatrician is a specialist who provides medical care for children who are acutely or chronically ill and also offers preventative health care.

Ndebele said the government hospitals were failing to conduct laboratory tests because of old equipment, which are dysfunctional.

“We are also referring laboratory tests to private hospitals in town because we have old equipment which is not working anymore,” said Ndebele.

He said Mpilo Hospital owed suppliers over $2 million and some are now refusing to do business with the institution because of its bad debtor status.

Ndebele said qualified nurses were few with student nurses manning hospital wards.

This is despite government training institutions churning out thousands of qualified nurses every year who cannot be employed because of government’s job freeze.

In 2008, most major government hospitals countrywide closed wards due to shortages of staff, medicine and equipment.

Most of the institutions were re-opened after the formation of the coalition government three years ago after some foreign donors offered help through the health trust fund. - Pindai Dube

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