When the rich shun local institutions

HARARE - The smell of death hangs in the air at Harare Hospital as the sick sit hopelessly on rickety benches waiting for the “lazy” nurse.

She is not paid well and sees no reason to hurry.

The hospital’s floors are unpolished!

Zimbabwe’s hospitals are bleeding and for over a decade now they have been in intensive care — struggling to attract critical staff such as doctors and having to make do without simple medication because the government is too broke to provide basics.

“I have been given a prescription but I don’t have any money to buy the drugs,” an elderly patient says.

Ahead of this year’s elections — President Emmerson Mnangagwa has advertised and splashed, on billboards, messages enticing voters with promises of affordable health, free education, the promises remain just that. They are unfulfilled.

Zimbabwe has two faces. Amid shortages of currency and a general decay in the economy there are some who are having it all, buying off-roaders, BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Range Rovers; they are well healed.

This elite group includes politicians, drug dealers and other business people whose source of wealth is often unknown and at times controversial.

The stark contrast between the haves and have-nots was well painted in Bulawayo a fortnight ago when a bomb explosion left scores of people injured and some dead.

The rich were taken to Meter Dei, a Catholic-ran hospital equipped with critical medical equipment while the poor were taken to Mpilo Hospital, a public hospital where drugs are in constant short supply.

Vice President Kembo Mohadi and Zanu PF chairperson Oppah Muchinguri were later airlifted to South Africa — far from the dirty aisles and passages of Mpilo to air-conditioned facilities where Mnangagwa also gets his medical care whenever sick.

A vote of no confidence perhaps, but a classic example of Animal Farm where although all animals are equal some animals are more equals than others.

Former advisor to the late Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai — who also died in foreign lands seeking better medical attention — Alex Magaisa said the Bulawayo blast opens questions about the country’s paradoxes.

“The incident also revealed another dark side of the system, where Animal Farm-style, some animals are more equal than others.

“The manner in which victims have been treated, seemingly according to their station in life has left a sour taste in the mouth.

“Two members of Cabinet, a vice president and a minister were airlifted to South Africa for treatment, continuing a well-known pattern.

“Those who lead Zimbabwe and aspire to continue leading it know local facilities are not good enough.

“When Mnangagwa was allegedly poisoned last year, he too was flown to South Africa.

“Meanwhile, two brave men, the security aides who looked after the two vice presidents’s lives, had to make do with the parlous local public health facilities which were not good enough for their bosses,” said Magaisa.

Politicians like Muchinguri-Kashiri and Mohadi have the means but unfortunately those they lead have to make do with local public hospitals which for the most part lack basic drugs, have no nurses or doctors.

Although Zimbabwe’s Constitution under Section 76 (1) clearly states that every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to access basic healthcare services that, however, remains a pipedream for the broad masses.

Although Zimbabwe is signatory to the Abuja Declaration in which African Union member States pledge to commit 15 percent of their annual budget, the health sector allocations have failed to meet that benchmark.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), recently rapped government officials for shunning local hospitals, opting instead for private owned facilities.

“The Commission notes with concern that due to the inadequate and poor facilities in most public health institutions, the leaders within the Government of Zimbabwe generally shun the services that are a product of their policies and decisions.

“Instead they seek treatment in private health facilities and even travel beyond Zimbabwean borders for health services.

“This practice, in our view, displays a clear lack of confidence in the public health delivery system by our leaders and compromises commitment and resoluteness in ensuring the recovery of the system.

“Further, it relegates such services to the poor who have to contend with the deteriorating health standards, which fly in the face of the rights based approach to development,” read the statement.

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