On the 9th of November, a memo addressed to all departments from the Provincial Medical Officer (PMO) for Matabeleland South was issued. It read as follows: “Notice is hereby given that Beitbridge District Hospital has temporarily suspended mortuary operations with immediate effect. The decision has been brought about as a result of the lengthy power cuts and high temperatures being experienced hence rendering the mortuary equipment non-functional. As a result of this, no new bodies will be accepted for storage in the mortuary”. So this is one of the latest developments to rock the health sector. Let us also look at some of what has been happening in the health sector.

The Local Doctors Situation

Due to paltry monthly salaries doctors, just like most civil servants, had been pursuing industrial action for quite a while now (since the 3rd of September). We have to appreciate that doctors have had to deal with some of the most perplexing situations imaginable. For starters, you are getting a low salary right? Regardless, due to your passion for the medical profession by saving lives, you still report for work. There are many doctors I know who kept reporting for work despite others choosing to stay away. You report for work and the working conditions are extremely dire i.e. power cuts, under-staffing, consumables and drugs in short supply or not available at all.

Most doctors have had to contend with scenarios where patients end up passing on or being sent back home simply because they cannot help them. Do not forget that while all this is happening, the economy is still free-falling. Prices of goods and services have continued to spike, the local currency has continued to weaken against the US dollar; not to mention 18-hour daily power cuts and so on. This has seen doctors being forced to continue striking only that this time some unfortunate action has been taken against them.

The Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services recently tweeted saying: “Striking doctors can be rest assured that once dismissed there will be no re-hiring. No one is above the law no matter the profession and if the court says go back to work you must comply. The government will also blacklist the money mongering doctors so they are not employable elsewhere”.  It is quite disturbing to see such happening because instead of addressing the plight of the doctors they are punishing them for airing their grievances. Sure enough, some doctors have been dismissed with some already setting their sights on other countries for employment. The massive brain drain the health sector is going to experience is crippling.

Some Heart-Breaking Accounts Of Loss

I will give just two accounts of the loss of lives as a result of challenges occurring in the health sector. The first story is as follows: “Yesterday I had a cousin who was in labour and had to be taken to Chitungwiza Hospital. This was after Mabvuku Hospital had denied admitting her citing that there was no doctor present to assist. When she got to Chitungwiza Hospital she could not be admitted before payment of a Ward fee and other costs. The unborn baby ended up defecating in the uterus due to all these delays. They had to do an operation upon payment of US$300 – which was a struggle. At around 5 pm it was indicated that the baby was severely fatigued and at around 8 pm the baby passed on.

The other account is of a man who lost both his wife and their unborn child. Due to the absence of doctors and power amongst other factors, the expecting mother could not be attended to in time. The husband remarked on how shocked he was to be told that the wife had passed on yet she was still pregnant. In essence, she passed away without having even managed to give birth – incredibly sad indeed!

So this is what is happening in the health sector. With some hospitals suspending mortuary operations it becomes quite alarming because things are spiralling downwards. Deaths are going to be inevitable due to the porous service at health care facilities. How then will dead bodies be dealt with? After all, is said and done, the health sector is definitely in a state of emergency and urgent measures must be put in place to address the prevailing issues.