Zimbabwe doctors are on strike over severe lack of medical supplies

Doctors at Zimbabwe’s biggest state hospital are on strike after a lack of medical supplies caused patients to die

Image: Reuters

Image: Reuters

Since Wednesday, medical staff at Parirenyatwa Hospital have been protesting outside the building, calling on the government to provide the proper equipment needed to help patients.

“I am just seeing patients, make a diagnosis and send them away to die,” said gynecological oncologist Bothwell Guzha.

Doctors said that there is an inadequate amount of syringes, painkillers, and other medical supplies. Because of the lack of resources, nurses were forced to reuse bandages, which cause infections.

Parirenyatwa’s maternity unit staff member Azza Mashumba said that without a working theater, doctors have been forced to delay cesarean sections.

“I come to work to certify dead [baby] bodies, that’s not why I am here,” said Mashuma. “We are not working, we are not helping patients.”

Zimbabwe is currently facing a financial crisis that has caused the price of medicines to rise, putting strain on the country’s health care system. Doctors and other medical staff have begun to look for work in other countries as a result, an exodus that the country can’t afford.

There were only 1.6 physicians and 7.2 nurses for every 10,000 people in Zimbabwe in 2010 according to the World Health Organization. By comparison, the US has more than triple this amount with about 25.7 per 10,000 people in 2014.

The lack of resources has impacted the country’s health care system over the years. Last year, junior doctors held a 40-day strike, asking for increased pay and better medical supplies. As a result, the government fired 550 medical staffers on Christmas Eve.

Doctors said in a letter to the government that they are only able to treat emergency cases due to limited resources, but won't even be able to do this for much longer.

“The currently available resources might not be able to sustain the emergency service provision beyond the end of the month,” they said.