Former president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and Faith Ministries Senior Pastor, Dr Shingi Munyeza is speaking out, calling for the re-opening of hospitals as there appears to be no end in sight to the doctors’ strike over salaries and poor working conditions.
Speaking during a church service, Dr Munyeza, who doubles as an advisor to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, submitted that the government cannot expect poorly paid doctors to deliver.
He said the country had arrived at a place where it is shrinking its capacity and is celebrating mediocrity in service delivery, when alternatives to hospitals, including traditional midwifery, are being celebrated by the government. Dr Munyeza’s remarks come at a time when expecting mothers are flocking a Mbare-based ‘Back Yard Traditional Maternity Centre’ operated by a 72-year-old grandmother Esther Zinyoro Gwena following the suspension of services by most polyclinics over unsustainable salaries and poor working conditions.
Mbuya Gwena, as she’s reverently referred to, claims to be guided by the Holy Spirit and has become a local hero, as the country’s economic crisis forces closure of medical facilities, and mothers-to-be seek out untrained birth attendants. She got the attention of the media last month after it had emerged that she had delivered about 100 babies in eight days.
The traditional midwife also got a visit from the First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, an act analysts said was a way of endorsing her work.
Dr Munyeza, however, chastised the national administration for misplacing priorities and said that it should rather pay the doctors “a living wage and equip hospitals” than laud ordinariness.
LETS REOPEN OUR HOSPITALS – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
Pay the doctors a living wage and equip hospitals.
All hands on deck, we can do this before Christmas if we are willing and able.
LETS STOP REDUCING OUR CAPACITY AND STOP CELEBRATING MEDIOCRITY IN SERVICE DELIVERY pic.twitter.com/IKC5RX8zKD
— Shingi Munyeza (@ShingiMunyeza) December 17, 2019
Zimbabwe’s health sector is mired in a crisis as public hospital doctors have been on strike for over a hundred days, with doctors demanding better salaries and allowances, as well as conditions of service.
A report by Aljazeera established that a junior doctor only earns about ZWL$400 dollars ($20 at black market rates) as a basic salary and an “on-call allowance” of approximately ZWL$1,000 dollars ($50) a month.
Practitioners want their salaries indexed against the United States dollar, to keep pace with inflation as the Zimbabwean dollar erodes in value against it.
The practitioners’ labour action to put down tools and claiming incapacitation has resulted in patients being turned away from hospitals while there have been widespread reports of deaths in circumstances which could have been prevented had patients received adequate care.
The doctors defend the action on the grounds that they have been incapacitated financially, but the government says the strike is illegal and its “command” response of firing over 400 of the doctors and withdrawing their salaries from others further perpetuated the crisis which has reached unimaginable proportions, and this has opened the door for other countries — with Britain reportedly at the forefront — to snatch the doctors.
The standoff, which appears to be seeing no end anytime soon unless help is availed, has brought the health delivery system in the country virtually to its knees, exposing the government’s non-commitment to guaranteeing universal healthcare. The government claims it can’t pay more to the workers, but critics point to skewed priorities, a reference to frequent foreign trips and purchases of luxury vehicles by senior officials while the social sector is ailing and largely depends on foreign donors.
State coffers have left the government unable to purchase sufficient supplies for state medical facilities. Power shortages and rolling blackouts have only added to the myriad difficulties facing healthcare providers.
In October, senior doctors who had assumed emergency-room duties also downed stethoscopes around the country in solidarity with their sacked junior colleagues.
Tawanda Zvakada of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association said he hoped the government would swiftly act now that senior doctors had joined the strike.
The dire state of the country’s healthcare system was captured in a report issued by United Nations independent human rights expert Hilal Elver after she visited the country in late November.
In November, Dr Munyeza warned that things will get worse if the citizens do not unite and find each other in solving the challenges affecting the country.
“If we don’t stop our current behaviors and realize we are all Zimbabweans seeking a better life – IT WILL GET WORSE. If we don’t engage in a genuine dialogue at all levels – IT WILL GET WORSE. If we expect someone else to come and help us – IT WILL GET WORSE.”
In a bid to end the health crisis, Zimbabwean telecommunications billionaire Strive Masiyiwa offered to pay the salaries of the country’s 2,000 doctors for 6-12 months duration in the local currency if they resumed their duties.
Senior doctors, albeit, rejected the offer and called on their employer, the Zimbabwean government, to redress their grievances.
Other Christian leaders who have spoken on the dire state of the healthcare system and the plight of the practitioners in the country include Celebration Churches International founder Pastor Tom Deuschle, who challenged the citizens to speak up against the decaying economic system and said that he was proud of the striking doctors for “drawing a line in the sand.”
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