Zim to double number of doctors

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s government will hire more doctors, the deputy Health minister has said, a drive that would double the number of doctors after a hiring freeze.

Deputy Health minister Aldrin Musiiwa said the country plans to hire more health personnel, including locally-trained unemployed doctors, so as to improve the doctor-patient ratio.

Zimbabwe currently employs about 500 doctors in the public service.

The landlocked mineral-rich nation of 13 million has a doctor-patient ratio of one per 250 000 inhabitants and plans to bring it up.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended standard is one doctor per 600 inhabitants.

“Our response at the moment, we actually are training enough doctors for the country,” Musiiwa told the National Assembly last week.

“We are currently lobbying for Treasury to allow us more posts so that we can employ more doctors; otherwise we are training enough doctors.  If we have enough posts, then we should be able to increase the current ratio.”

Health professionals are migrating in search of greener pastures outside the country’s borders. This has negatively affected the quality of health care offered in most of the country’s health institutions.

“Actually, in terms of training, we are currently graduating about 360 doctors every year and the problem then comes with retention.

“Once we have graduated these doctors and deployed them in the system, we are losing a lot of doctors both to the region and internationally,” Musiiwa said.

“Although the replacement rate is okay, we are not retaining enough doctors in the country.  So, until we have enough money in treasury to create more posts, it is going to take some time until we reach the required ratio.”

He was responding to a question from MDC Southerton legislator Gift Chimanikire who had asked what government was doing to improve the conditions of service for junior doctors.

Poor working conditions, insufficient remuneration, delayed promotions, lack of recognition, and inability to afford the basic necessities of life are all cited as reasons for dissatisfaction.

Musiiwa said until the economic situation in Zimbabwe improved; it would be difficult to change the situation.

“It is an issue of great concern when we lose trained and qualified staff.  However, it is a situation pertaining across the board in the country. At the moment, our salaries compared to those that pertain in the region and abroad are much lower.  Until our economic situation improves, it is going to be very difficult.

“...what we have done as a ministry is, in respect of junior doctors, we have provided accommodation within the institutions which they work on at lower rates. We have also allowed them vehicle loans as a way of retaining them.  As to the salaries that we can give them, that is an issue of treasury,” Musiiwa said.

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