18 June 2012

Zimbabwe: Job Freeze Impacts Negatively On HIV Treatment

TREASURY'S freeze on recruitment has resulted in unqualified health personnel treating people living with HIV and Aids, a development that compromises their lives.

A Parliament report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on the management of HIV care and treatment programmes revealed that there was an alarmingly high doctor: patient ratio.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti froze all posts in the health sector in 2010 but gave leeway for institutions to apply for exemptions in exceptional circumstances.

Comptroller and Auditor General Mrs Mildred Chiri said the doctor to patient ratio was supposed to be two for the first 300 registered patients and an extra doctor for each additional 300 registered patients according to the standard operating procedures manual of 2006.

"From the 15 initiating facilities visited during my audit, I observed that there were 56 098 registered patients requiring 208 doctors but there were only 21 (10%) doctors available," reads the report.

"As a result of the shortage of doctors, State registered nurses not trained to initiate patients were initiating patients when the set standards required doctors only to initiate patients on ART (anti-retroviral therapy).

"...429 patients were initiated by nurses compared to only 14 initiated by doctors in six facilities as analysed. This compromises the proper treatment of patients when health care workers not trained in the area initiate patients on ART programme."

Mrs Chiri said the shortage of doctors at Chitungwiza Central Hospital resulted in 246 patients waiting for 42 days to be initiated.

The report also said there was a shortage of pharmacy and qualified laboratory personnel.

During the audit there were no pharmacists at Mpilo Central Hospital, Zvishavane District Hospital, Gutu Mission Hospital, Gwanda Provincial Hospital, Sakubva

Infectious Hospital and Morgenster Mission.

The audit also revealed that there were no pharmacy technicians at Gutu and Morgenster Mission Hospitals.

There were also no laboratory scientists at Chivhu General, Gutu Mission, Shurugwi District, Gwanda Provincial, Sakubva Infectious and Morgenster Mission.

"The shortage of laboratory personnel has resulted in limited blood samples being processed leading to backlogs of patients waiting for essential tests.

"At Morgenster Hospital the CD4 count machine was being operated by a State registered nurse because there were no laboratory scientists," reads the report that has been tabled in Parliament.

The auditor also bemoaned failure to conduct essential tests on initiation and monitoring of patients.

"I noted with concern that HIV positive people were taking between one to six months before they were tested for essential tests in order to be initiated on the ART programme.

"Due to the backlogs there were delays in initiating patients on ART treatment and some ended up giving up," Mrs Chiri said.

The Health Service Board recently told Parliamentarians that there were over 12 000 vacant posts in the health sector that cannot be filled because of a Treasury-imposed recruitment freeze.

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