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Zimbabwe: Hospitals in Crisis
Minor illnesses become fatal as healthcare breaks down
Nelson G. Katsande (NELKA)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-08-29 11:29 (KST)   
Zimbabwe's government-run hospitals are broke, and reported to be turning away patients because they are unable to provide basic medication.

The government has been condemned for its carefree attitude and high propensity to spend on luxury goods, such as the recent purchase of vehicles for use by militia personnel, and aircraft from China.

Ambulances at most hospitals are grounded due to fuel shortages and lack of vehicle spares.

Despite the soaring levels of sexually transmitted diseases in the country, most cases go untreated as hospitals do not have the medication.

People are dying from minor illnesses that could have been easily treated but hospitals have run short of resources. The majority of rural folk, once regarded as Mugabe's loyalists, have jumped ship to join the opposition as they accuse the incumbent government of persecuting the poor.

The country's only two radiotherapy machines broke down eight months ago and only recently did the hospital try to have them repaired. But the machines are now obsolete and the government has failed to provide replacements.

By his own admission, the deputy minister of health was quoted in a local paper as saying that the ministry had a shortage of hospital equipment. He hoped that by the year 2015 the government will have equipped all its hospitals. His statement is viewed as a shameful admission of failure on the behalf of Mugabe's government. And the question still being asked by the people is:

"Should it take that long to provide solutions while the people continue to die?"

The sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe coupled with Mugabe's aggressive attitude towards Western countries, have made it difficult for the southern African country to raise the much needed foreign exchange.

Presently, the government can only provide anti-retroviral drugs to 30 thousand people when 4 million patients are in desperate need of the life prolonging medication. It is believed that 3,000 people die from HIV-related illnesses every week in Zimbabwe.

An acute shortage of beds and linen is now a sign of the times at most government hospitals. Patients are sleeping on the floors and some have complained of using lice infested linen. In some cases patients are being asked to bring their own linen and medication.

As the cost of treatment continues to spiral upwards, people are resorting to seeking treatment from traditional healers and witch doctors. Many have died as a result of being prescribed harmful concoctions from these healers.

At Bindura hospital, 80 kilometers north-east of Harare, broken down wheelchairs are strewn all over the hospital grounds. Pungent smells come out of the ill equipped hospital toilets. Nurses are sometimes assigned toilet cleaning duties.

The scenario is the same at KweKwe general hospital in the midlands province, as mortuary fridges are not working to full capacity. Patients are having to wait for longer periods for treatment as staff go about their shopping errands, leaving them unattended.

Most hospitals have been literally turned into mini-markets by nurses and auxiliary staff as they bring fruits and home made foodstuffs for resale to the patients. This practice is most common at district hospitals.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nelson G. Katsande

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