Elita Chikwati and Talent Gore
A fact-finding visit to Harare’s two biggest hospitals by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health yesterday exposed the acrimonious working relations between nurses and doctors who traded accusations of absenteeism and indolence before stunned lawmakers.
At Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital), the two parties issued conflicting statements on the status of the machinery that was recently imported from India, with doctors claiming that most of it was not functional while nurses said the opposite.
The committee headed by Dr Ruth Labode visited the hospital and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals following presentation of oral evidence by the Senior Health Doctors Association (SHDA), the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZINA) and the Ministry of Health and Child Care on the situation at major public hospitals on Monday.
At Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, nurses and doctors clashed over flexible working hours that were introduced, resulting in nurses working between two and three days a week.
Doctors said the system was presenting challenges as there was a time when patients were left unattended.
Nurses, on the other hand, accused doctors of not working hard, but leaving most of the work to them.
They said doctors were supposed to work for eight hours, but most of the times they were not available and nurses had resorted to calling them whenever there was an emergency.
Tempers flared as staff held different views over the equipment imported from India.
Doctors said the equipment was not functional, while nurses said they were using the machines.
The committee found out that a few of the machines were functional while the rest had missing components.
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro exonerated himself from the India equipment deal.
“The missing parts of the equipment from India are now at Natpharm and the Indian engineers are expected in the next two weeks to come for the commissioning of the machinery.
“I applaud the parliamentarians for the effort and listening to what is happening at the institutions. We are going to try to continue working together. It is now a policy issue that no gadget should be bought without the approval of the end user,” he said.
Hospital chief executive officer Dr Tinashe Dhobbie said: “The equipment that we received is working but when the equipment came most of the doctors were on industrial action hence they could not be taught how to operate it.”
He said the strike affected operations at the hospital.
“Normally, bed occupation is between 60 and 70 percent but during the industrial action it had dropped to 20 percent, and now it is picking up and is currently at 45 percent.
“We want to lobby Parliament so that we can get more money and resources. The flexible hours are not what we want. We are relying on the system as we wait for things to improve. I hope fundamentals are going to be addressed soon so that we have smooth transition from one nurse to another,” he said.
Parirenyatwa chief executive Mr Enock Manyawu said he would take into consideration the suggestions that came up during the meeting for the smooth running of the institution.
Concerns were raised over private pharmacies at the institution.
It was felt that management should improve accountability on revenue collected from patients.
Senior staff at Parirenyatwa expressed concern over the deterioration of working conditions and said it was worrying that the institution was training specialist nurses who were leaving the country.
Senior Government officials that were present ended up calling on stakeholders in the health sector to join hands and come up with sustainable solutions to challenges facing the industry.