Doctors shun rural hospitals

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.

Comments (7)

ZIMRA Boss - US$350,000 a month PASMAS Boss - US$500,000 a month Doctor - US$300 a month Heee, they don't want to go to rural areas, let Zanu PF green bombers go there and treat their support base.

XG - 17 May 2016

I do share the doctors concern when it comes to lack of incentives to go work in rural areas particularly those in remote areas. I however lament the lack of innovation and initiative by most of our graduates as demanded by their profession. They should view the offers as challenges to which they should prove their worth. When I was working overseas I used to watch documentary films of doctors from Europe taking up tasks at remote clinics in Africa and (because of their innovations) transforming the them into standard clinics. For the sake of the poor rural folks I am pleading with our doctors to take up the challenges. After all doctors mission is to save lives against all odds - thats what makes you special.

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 17 May 2016

saving people yes but not on an empty stomach. people practice medicine in africa for a living my friend saving life is another thing

kk - 18 May 2016

@Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda, those Western Drs are fully funded by either their government, own resources or NGOs to perform that work in remote areas. Try attracting them with your Zimbabwean Dr's salary and see if they come. Apart from helping people, Drs are human beings with families and extended families to feed. That comes first.

XG - 18 May 2016

Masamba speaks my mind here. sure doctors should take rural postings as a challenge to prove their worth. when i left teacher trainng in the late 1980s my colleagues and i gladly accepted posts out of towns and there we made lasting impressions of what we were made of until a whirlwind swept it all away. what kind of a professional would want easy work and not take up challenges of the harsh world outside? that doctors shun rural posts also speaks volumes of the kind of training they get. i feel there is very little if anything that is being done to prepare them for the job after training. there were lecturers at GTC who would make student teachers see sense in the idea that teaching at a rural station was more respectable, more Zimbabwean and more socialist than at some former group A school in Harare. thumps up comrade masamba.i will take tanganda from now on

edika - 18 May 2016

Ayizve!, There is also need for the Government to put some incentives in those rural posts, eg a solar powered house, limited furniture for start ups in the house, double salary for those working in rural areas than their counterparts in Urban, taking it from the fact that those left in town have higher chances of doing "Maricho" from othere experienced surgery owners and maybe give them a loan to buy a car so that these doctors are mobile or can go to the next centre for entertainment or replenish their groceries and internet for them to research. Moda kuti Doctor vadye matemba everyday here? Put these measures in place and you will be surprised, but I know this lazy and broke government will not consider this

Willing to work on any place in Africa - 18 May 2016

chiremba munhuwo veduwe. other than the meagre salary, the hospitals kwavari kunzi vaende are dilapidated. there is no motivation, they would rather go to Namibia

mai keisha - 20 May 2016

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