Health crisis looms at Harare’s Parirenyatwa

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A health disaster is looming at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals following revelations the country’s flagship health facility is facing a massive shortage of bedding which has seen some admitted patients going home without treatment or spending days sleeping in corridors.

The situation at the country’s largest health facility has been made worse by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw government diverting and refurbishing part of Parirenyatwa Hospital into a Covid-19 emergency facility.

Other hospitals which had been admitting patients mostly low earners like West End Hospital have since closed their casualty units following the outbreak of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe.

A visit by Business Times on Tuesday at Parirenyatwa saw scores of desperate patients lying in the corridors waiting for their turn to be admitted as the country’s biggest hospital battles to contain the
increasing number of people in need of medical attention.

“The situation is sad because I was admitted on Sunday but has been sleeping in the corridors because the hospital has run out of beds. I have an injury that requires urgent operation and the wound needs dressing but I have not been admitted to date and there is no hope of getting space anytime soon,” said one patient who requested anonymity over fear of victimisation.

Parirenyatwa Hospital Head of Public Relations, Linos Dhire could not respond to questions sent to him by the time of going for print.

The situation has been worsened further following revelations that all theatre wards at Parirenyatwa have been operating in an emergence mode in reaction to Covid-19.

This means those patients in need of ait further without any hope for assistance.

Parirenyatwa Hospital requires about US$31m for it to operate efficiently as a central hospital and the flagship health facility has been demanding for an early release of its budgetary allocation to address its
continued deterioration.

Following a visit by Parliament recently at the flagship hospital, Parirenyatwa chief executive Ernest Munyawu told legislators that the hospital has 1 200 beds, adding that under normal circumstances, there would be a 90% to 100% occupancy rate.

In terms of the number of patients, the hospital did 14,405 theatre operations in 2018, but these dropped to 7,107 in 2019. The hospital also had 50,553 persons on casualty in 2018, but in 2019, it recorded 46,025.

For outpatients, the hospital had 121,765 in 2018, but in 2019, the figure dropped to 94 693.

As a Covid-19 response plan, Parirenyatwa Hospital, the largest referral centre in Zimbabwe approved a plan to partition one of its wings into a Covid-19 treatment facility after the government was informed
that equipping Wilkins Hospital only in Harare for coronavirus patients was inadequate.

A visit at West End Hospital by Business Times on Tuesday discovered that the hospital was closed and not attending to casualty patients.

All patients in need of medical attention at West End were referred to Parirenyatwa. This, therefore, has continued to exert pressure on Parirenyatwa.

West End Hospital was closed in April this year for non-Covid-19 related diseases, therefore, putting more pressure on Parirenyatwa. The hospital’s casualty unit was closed following the death of an 86 year old woman to Covid-19.

Parirenyatwa is the largest medical centre in Zimbabwe. The hospital was formerly known as the Andrew Fleming Hospital and was named after the principal medical officer to the British South Africa Company.

Health analyst and Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the health delivery system in Zimbabwe is being overwhelmed, with lack of healthcare capacity for patients and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.

“With about 37 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country, there is a concern about the capacity of the health system to respond as the pandemic spreads, for example there are only a few intensive care beds at Parirenyatwa Hospital including Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital with many public health institutions across the country still to have the critically needed ventilators or the additional needed hospital beds to fully respond to this public health pandemic,” Rusike said.

He said the Covid-19 funding should also be used to improve the public health delivery system including the training and recruitment of wellpaid and adequately protected health workers.

“We recommend that all user fees for all health care should be urgently suspended at least for the period of the pandemic and entitlement to health care should be made universal and accessible to all the citizens and permanent residents of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Parirenyatwa is the largest medical centre in Zimbabwe. The hospital was formerly known as the Andrew Fleming Hospital and was named after the principal medical officer to the British South Africa Company.

Source: Business Times