Bare-handed surg­eries as health sec­tor col­lapses


DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - W RLD - —AP

Harare: A doc­tors’ strike in Zim­babwe has crip­pled a health sys­tem that was already in in­ten­sive care from ne­glect. It mir­rors the state of af­fairs in a coun­try that was full of prom­ise a year ago with the de­par­ture of long­time leader Robert Mu­gabe but now faces eco­nomic col­lapse.

Doc­tors de­scribe grim con­di­tions: Bare-handed surg­eries. Plas­tic bread bags used to col­lect pa­tients’ urine. Bro­k­endown ma­chines. Zim­babwe’s health sec­tor, once con­sid­ered one of the best in Africa, is on its knees.

“It’s so sad. The hos­pi­tals are empty, the pa­tients are be­ing turned away to die some­where else,” said Prince Bu­tau, trea­surer of the Zim­babwe Hospi­tal Doc­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents about 1,000 doc­tors who an­chor gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals. A new pres­i­dent’s prom­ises of change have turned out to be empty.

“Af­ford­able qual­ity health care guar­an­teed,” read cam­paign bill­boards for Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, a for­mer Mu­gabe pro­tege, ahead of the July 2018 elec­tion. Six months after he nar­rowly won the dis­puted vote, Zim­babwe’s health sec­tor has wide­spread short­ages of ba­sic medicines such as painkillers and con­tra­cep­tives.

Mnan­gagwa and oth­ers in the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic elite re­ceive med­i­cal care mainly in neigh­bor­ing South Africa, while Mu­gabe fre­quently vis­its Singapore for treat­ment. At home, ev­ery­day Zim­bab­weans seeking health care have had to bring their own drugs, sy­ringes, ban­dages and, at times, wa­ter.

Gov­ern­ment hos­pi­tals were par­a­lyzed by the five-week doc­tors’ strike that “be­grudg­ingly” sput­tered to an end on Thurs­day with no res­o­lu­tion for their de­mands. The end brings no im­prove­ment in con­di­tions.

In Novem­ber, the Zim­babwe Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents health work­ers, warned that pa­tients were “re­laps­ing” and “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing” while op­er­a­tions were be­ing can­celled due to short­ages of medicines.

The sit­u­a­tion, cou­pled with low salaries, forced doc­tors to strike, Bu­tau said.

With­out ad­e­quate gloves, doc­tors some­times use their bare hands while masks and gog­gles are nonex­is­tent, he said. “We are ex­posed to flu­ids, blood spillage, HIV and hep­ati­tis B.” He has seen rope used in place of ban­dages. “We can­not keep on do­ing that,” he said.


A fam­ily col­lects the body of their son who died at Parireny­atwa Hospi­tal in Harare, Zim­babwe

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