Zim hospitals in need of revival

HARARE - Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa had to be airlifted to South Africa last week to receive urgent medical assistance following suspected food poisoning.

Mnangagwa fell ill in Gwanda, where he was attending President Robert Mugabe’s sixth youth interface meeting. He initially received medical attention at Claybank and Thornhill hospitals, before it was felt he needed to be airlifted to South Africa to get the best medical care.

Mnangagwa is not the only Zimbabwean politician to seek sanctuary in foreign hospitals. It is now standard practice for the elite in Zanu PF and Mugabe’s government to spent the elusive greenbacks seeking medical care in the region and offshore because they have no longer trust local hospitals.

In the process, Zimbabwe is rendered poorer because this is money that could have been spent locally to assuage a crippling foreign currency crisis gripping the country’s economy.

Even members of the opposition parties, including MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, have joined the bandwagon because the health delivery system in Zimbabwe now resembles a death trap.

While the well-to-do in our midst are escaping the dire conditions in our local hospitals, those who cannot afford these expensive medical trips beyond the country’s borders — and they happen to be the majority of Zimbabweans — are putting up with depressing conditions in our health delivery system.

Several people have died even from treatable conditions because they cannot access basic drugs, while others succumb to their sickness before being attended to, having failed to raise the consultation fees.

Zimbabwe used to have arguably the best healthcare system on the continent until something went terribly wrong in the early to mid 1990s.

A combination of populist policies, economic mismanagement, as well as their intended and unintended consequences conspired to rob the health sector of its shine. For many years, government has entertained the false notion that it can give Zimbabweans access to public health at close to next to nothing without following its generosity with structured investments into the sector to keep up the standards. And when the sector started buckling in, government has not accepted responsibility for its poor policies.

The result has been the loss of skill to the Diaspora, the decline in donor funding and the calamitous collapse in public health institutions.

It would be unfair to blame Tsvangirai and other members of the opposition for seeking medical help outside the country’s borders because the situation is not of their making, although Zanu PF often accuse them of inviting sanctions — cited by Mugabe and his party as having triggered the on-going economic crisis.

Having said that, the elite in Zanu PF must be ashamed for insulating themselves from a crisis they have created, while exposing the millions of ordinary Zimbabweans to terrible conditions in the health delivery sector.


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