Zimbabwe: President's Perfect Answer to Doctor's Tears

Three months ago, a public health practitioner, Dr Azza Mashumba, sensationally broke down in tears as she explained how hospitals were ill-equipped and how doctors watched helplessly as patients -- including babies -- suffer and die because of the state of facilities.

For their part, health workers were not enjoying any better conditions of service.

Dr Mashumba's plight became an immediate metaphor of just how things had gone bad and broken down.

There were no bandages, latex gloves, betadine and even needles, the most basic things of primary healthcare.

Dr Mashumba and others were to gather courage to meet President Mnangagwa at State House to air their concerns.

The meeting took place on May 15.

It had never happened before, that a group of doctors would just walk in at State House to meet the Head of State without going to protocol.

Fast forward three months, and that famous cry has proved its worth! On Monday, President Mnangagwa presided over a ceremony to hand over medical equipment the Government sourced from India, fulfilling his commitment to help capacitate the ailing state of the country's health delivery system.

And during the commissioning of the equipment, events that happened almost three months earlier never missed his speech.

"The doctors came to State House and explained their working conditions. The conditions of service, the equipment, the tools of trade.

" I really felt sympathetic. So, I promised them that despite the lack of resources, I will do my best to source the equipment you want.

"Submit your list and indeed they did so. This is less than three months ago," President Mnangagwa was quoted as saying on Monday.

Government went on to purchase infant incubators and resuscitators for the neonatal intensive care unit, multi-parameter monitors for adults and paediatrics, operating theatre tables (both electric and hydraulic), portable electroncephalopathy machine, respiratory aid ventilator, video endoscopy, gastroscopy and colonoscopy sets.

There were also mobile x-ray machines and anaesthetic machines.

While it is the Government's duty to provide such machinery and equipment to its citizenry, nothing beats the way President Mnangagwa responded to a cry of help.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo pointed out on the day the machines were being commissioned that Zimbabwe's health delivery system has been on a nosedive for the past 20 years due to a plethora of factors.

The country has been in isolation as the former president Mugabe fought battles with the international community.

This resulted in aid lines being withdrawn from Zimbabwe, causing unnecessary suffering for many locals.

The health sector became a major casualty as brain drain of most professionals compounded the situation.

Coupled with a discontented work force, it had become a nightmare to visit public hospitals.

However, as the Health Minister also rightly pointed out, President Mnangagwa's engagement and re-engagement drive has seen a fresh breeze blowing over the country since the inception of the Second Republic.

The country is slowly bringing smiles to those visiting its public hospitals, although a lot need to be improved. The infrastructure is there, but furnishing the buildings with proper equipment has been our Achilles Heel.

The world is going auto and people must not board buses to go for an x-ray, rather, mobile machines can now be used.

World-class machines can actually do half the work for a health practitioner and it has been long over due since our hospitals have the requisite machinery. Dr Moyo seems to have struck a good working relationship with his boss since his appointment and has been working hard to revive the sector.

President Mnangagwa must be commended too for being a listening leader and "walking the talk" by fulfilling his commitments.

The meeting he held with doctors has heralded a new era which must now be kept intact if we are to enjoy the beauty of public health institutions.

Whether Dr Mashumba will cry again is yet to be seen, but she must be commended for those "powerful tears"!

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