Overpopulation cripples Norton health sector

HARARE - Over the years, the population of Norton — a town about 40 kilometres outside Harare — has risen from 45 000 to between 85 000 and 100 000 people as approximately 300 babies are born per month.

And yet the small numbers of nurses at the town’s clinics and at the main Norton Council Hospital have been overwhelmed by the large number of people who seek medical assistance in the town.

Pregnant women have been the most affected as they have to endure long queues to be attended to.

Recently, a pregnant young woman collapsed while in a queue at Katanga Utano Clinic in Norton.

She told this publication that she had waited in the queue since 0700hrs to 1300hrs but she had not been attended to.

Other women who were also in the queue expressed disappointment in Norton’s health sector saying it has immensely collapsed.

“We are here for maternity booking and we have been at this clinic since morning.

“This is not fair, as you can see one of us fell because we have been here for a long time.

“The clinic should avail more nurses and put preference on pregnant women because we are fragile,” Ellen Mutyanda a patient said.

Katanga Utano Clinic’s sister-in-charge Theresa Matombo said there was nothing they could do to improve the speed because there are so many patients, and the staff is limited.

“We really need more staff, right now, the same nurse does maternity cases, post-natal cases and vaccinations,” she said.

Matombo said the small clinic receives 300 to 350 patients per day adding that they need more nurses to cater for the influx.

St Padre Pio Poly Clinic’s sister-in-charge Esther Mudokozi said a shortage of staff member and medicine is affecting the small clinic.

“We are operating with almost a quarter of the staff that we should have although we operate for 24 hours.

“Right now we have 14 nurses and these have to serve approximately hundreds of people per month,” she said.

Mudokozi said the clinic has 68 maternity deliveries per week with only four midwives and their working shifts don’t tally.

She added that the clinic has run out of important drugs and the current shortage is making their situation worse.

“We are running out of a drug that makes women to stop bleeding after labour, we are only left with four,” she said.

The sister in charge said private pharmacies they we used to buy medicine from are no longer selling due to the economic crisis.

Minister of Health and Child Care Obadiah Moyo said health service delivery in Norton needs attention.

“Norton is a town that has experienced a rapid population growth spurt with the resultant effect that health service delivery has been strained,” he said.

He said patients at times have to travel long distances to either Harare or Chegutu to receive specialised medical attention adding that every effort will be made to ensure that health issues in Norton are met and tackled head on.

Norton Legislator Themba Mliswa said Norton hospital should be upgraded as the number of deaths that occur in Norton are a result of not having adequate health facilities.

He said more often, people are referred to Harare and in the process mishaps occur.

He said manpower at Norton Hospital and clinics is not enough and they can only do very little in terms of resources.

“In terms of staff, the hospital is handicapped, and nurses sometimes do not get paid.

“Pharmaceuticals are closed and there is no medication,” he said.

Norton Health Department director Tungamirai Mhuka said health care is needed in Norton like any other town and should be given special attention.

He said the health there have been plans to upgrade Norton hospital but due to inadequate funding, the plans could not be carried out.

“We don’t have adequate funding to carry out some of our plans, such as X-ray, theatre facilities and more.

“Basically, we are under pressure with the shortage of nurses and equipment,” he said.

Mhuka said the maternity ward at Norton Hospital delivers approximately 200 babies each month.

The health facilities in Norton were established with about 40 000 people in mind.

However to date due to the rise in population, the infrastructure and facilities do not match the demand for health service delivery.

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