Govt to train medical specialists
GOVERNMENT will invest in training healthcare specialists, and spruce up local health institutions to stem foreign currency losses from outbound medical tourism.
Government sources estimate that Zimbabweans spend more than $400 million on medical tourism annually, a figure higher than is needed to train local specialists.
The dearth of medical specialists runs deep, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa decrying the fact that Zimbabwe has one diabetologist — who is Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro — against the three million Zimbabweans living with diabetes.
In his weekly column in The Sunday Mail, the Head of State and Government also said the country had just three heart surgeons and seven neuro-surgeons, mostly based in Harare.
This means people routinely travel abroad — mostly to South Africa, India and China - to get specialist care.
President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe would save millions of dollars by training its own specialists.
“Zimbabwe’s healthcare is not competitive, relative to similar services in other countries, developing or developed. But the story goes further than affordability. It is also about sparse skills in the country, and about poorly equipped health facilities.
“Yet what we end up spending on foreign care more than doubles what we need to build these specialist skills, and to equip and stock our specialised hospitals for more advanced interventions,” he said.
He said it was unacceptable for Zimbabwe to have zero capacity to carry out vital organ transplants and that there was no national organs register.
The high number of GPs in the country, the President said, was a good foundation for Zimbabwe to start producing its own specialists.
He said the structure of health delivery should be reconfigured to the standard where referral centres provided specialist services, while smaller centres provided basic treatment.
“Our provincial and central hospitals are needlessly clogged by cases which in fact should be dealt with at lower levels. Our inability to ensure that institutions at primary level are adequately staffed and provided with core competencies, has created this impossible situation where provincial and central hospitals are no longer referrals for complicated cases requiring specialised interventions only. Poor working facilities and conditions are to blame for this collapse in the national referral system which should serve us well.”
Absence of trauma facilities along the country’s highways had led to unnecessary loss of lives, he said.
“Illustratively, any serious traffic accident cases along the Harare-Chirundu Highway will have to be rushed back to Chinhoyi and Harare!
“This is quite typical on all our highways. We have lost many lives as a result. We now need to revisit our whole institutional health care chain, both by way of spatial distribution and the deployment of key competencies across these institutions.”