Home » Health » Health Sector Strikes – the Right to Health Remains a Pipeline Dream [opinion]

INDUSTRIAL action through its various forms such as sit-ins, boycott of specific duties, mass stay away etc have become synonymous with the health sector in Zimbabwe. In fact health service in Zimbabwe has of late gained notoriety in the manner in which health workers have been exposed to the vagrants of an unbearable working environment characterized by pathetic renumeration and a total disregard for the basic tenets of internationally recognized labour practices.

It is thus imperative that a critique of the etiological factors leading to this despicable situation our health sector finds itself in be the preoccupation of all right thinking Zimbabweans who are concerned by the consequential violation of the right to health of the generality of the citizenry. Chapter 4 Section 76 of the new Constitution of Zimbabwe expressly stipulates that

(a) Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic healthcare services, including reproductive health-care services.

(b) Every person living with a chronic illness has the right to have access to basic health-care services for the illness.

(c) No person may be refused emergency medical treatment in any health-care institution.

(d) The State must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to it, to achieve the progressive realization of the rights set out in this section.

This short snap view of our recently adopted national charter obviously convinces all that the current state of our health delivery system is in the intensive care unit and a precarious scenario where the right to health of all Zimbabweans continues to be violated as a result of gross negligence, lack of vision, and at times utter arrogance on part of the relevant Ministry of Health officials in Zimbabwe.

The fact that the same ministry has been riddled by two consecutive crippling strikes in less than a year gives us a synopsis of the caliber and quality of the officials who have been mandated to be the duty bearers as far as the right to health in Zimbabwe is concerned. Can we honestly say that we have a functional health ministry when our doctors go on strike because they were earning less than fifty US cents per hour when they were on call?

Can we walk with our heads high when our nurses earn a paltry $ 3 per month for all the nights they are awake looking after those Zimbabweans described in section 76 of our sacred document? Can we at any point in time justify the thousands of dollars from our taxpayer’s money used as salaries for the Health services board that has always ignored calls by health workers unions to avert these possible industrial actions?

There is no greater betrayal of our national patriotism than the current manner in which our health workers are being treated in Zimbabwe. Where in the world have we ever seen top government bearucrats scrambling for the few allowances generously awarded to suffering health workers in pursuance of their personal greed, enrichment and aggrandizement?

The recently exposed scandal where top ministry of health officials knowingly or unknowingly were part of the covert scheme which resulted in them awarding themselves hefty and aomical sums of money from the little availed by the Finance ministry to cheer up the few remaining health workers should be condemned in the gest terms possible. In a functional democracy this scandal should have seen the blanket resignation of those fingered and those who are supposed to supervise them.

The challenges in the health sector now need to be treated as a national emergency and a relevant government probe team must be set up to investigate the ministry of health and its conduct. The right to health will remain a pipeline dream particularly for our downtrodden grandmothers and grandfathers in marginalized communities as long as government turns a blind eye to the structural deficiencies and professional incapabilities of the Health Services Board and Officials in the Ministry of Health.

As we painfully try to come to terms with the realities being discussed in this article, another health crisis is looming as our newly qualified doctors have not been paid their dues as a result of a contractual deadlock between doctors, the Health Services Board and the Permanent secretary in the ministry of health.

Our people have suffered enough and its time that government cleanses the rot in our health ministry through reappointment of dedicated, strategic and selfless individuals who are endowed with the natural drive towards the global realization of the right to health by all Zimbabweans.

Health is a basic human right

This article was written by Dr Fortune Nyasha Nyamande. Dr Nyamande is a medical doctor based in Harare and is the current President of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association and writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on 0782414611.

Source : New Zimbabwe