Civil society organisations call upon the Government of Zimbabwe to urgently address the dire situation facing hospitals as a result of the strike by doctors. The current impasse, that is now reaching the 36th day, is causing untold pain, suffering, unnecessary loss of life, and is an affront to the right to health care, the right to dignity and the right to life.
We have assessed the unpleasant situation on the ground at the different public hospitals around the country and note with great concern the deteriorating situation which is now a national crisis.
It is common cause that the challenges in our health sector have over the years been exacerbated by inadequate funding to the Ministry of Health and Child Care. The 2019 national budget is no exception, it only allocates 8,9 percent, way below the recommended 15 percent as provided in the Abuja Declaration. This is unacceptable and will not improve the precarious situation in the public health institutions.
Inadequate financing has over the years crippled critical hospital functions, provision of essential medicines, availability of protective clothing for health personnel and the much-needed equipment including leading to the mass exodus of health professionals.
The work boycott by doctors, that commenced in December 2018, is not a new phenomenon and continues to gravely compromise access to health care for the most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe, who cannot afford private health care. Of concern is the closure of some wards at the referral hospitals due to lack of adequate manpower as a result of the ongoing strike. The critical situation negatively impacts on the efforts made to contain maternal mortality, manage chronic illnesses and contain the spread of water borne diseases that continue to recur in the urban areas in Zimbabwe.
It is alarming that emergency services are also no longer readily accessible at some hospitals. The absence of a full complement of doctors at state-run hospitals puts a heavy burden on the nurses and other support staff at these institutions.
Efforts by the government to engage recent inexperienced graduates from medical schools with limited practical exposure is very dangerous and puts the lives of innocent patients at risk.
The state has an obligation to ensure that citizens' right to health care is not compromised but progressively realised. This calls for honest dialogue with the experienced doctors for immediate implementation of measures to resolve the impasse.
Civil society organisations hold the Government of Zimbabwe, particularly the Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Health Services Board responsible and liable for the depressing situation obtaining at the state-run hospitals, the unavailability of services at these institutions and any attendant loss of life.
Therefore, Civil Society calls upon government to:
Urgently resolve and in earnest engage doctors to address the concerns raised to ensure that the situation returns to normalcy and ensure that the majority of our citizenry is able to access quality health care in line with the provisions of section 76 of the Constitution;
Respect and fulfill its constitutional obligations to facilitate the meaningful enjoyment of the fundamental rights and freedoms by citizens and doctors alike;
Ensure adequate funding of the health care sector as the right to health is an empowerment right, which if impaired, will dislocate the enjoyment of other rights and freedoms;
Finalise the review of the Health Services Act and make the Health Services Board more accountable, efficient and independent.
Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association
Citizens Health Watch
Community Water Alliance
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
Harare Residents Trust
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Zimbabwe Peace Project