Zimbabwean health sector loses 2 000 workers in 2021

HARARE – Zimbabwe needs to come up with fit-for-purpose interventions to mitigate the impact of an unprecedented staff exodus which saw the country losing more than 2 000 health professionals this year, more than double the number lost last year.

The health sector has over the past few years been hit by challenges including the movement of nurses, doctors, pharmacists among others to other countries.

As at November 30 this year, a total of 2246 health care professionals had left the service, more than double the number that left in 2020 which stood at 993. 

In 2019 and 2018 a total of 767 and 756 employees left the sector respectively.

This has been impacted by the Covid-19 which has increased demand for healthcare workers across the globe.

Speaking at the Health Service Board (HSB) strategic planning and review in Victoria Falls this week, executive chairman Dr Paulinus Sikosana said the health sector remains dynamic and needs tailor made solutions to counter the impact of such challenges.

“Unlike the preceding years, 2021 was a year that the board did not experience any collective job actions and was therefore able to focus on strengthening the quality service delivery. 

However, the year had its own challenges, some of which included the unprecedented staff attrition from the service, particularly from such categories as nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other staff categories who were being actively recruited by agencies from developed countries and some setting their sights at neighbouring countries. 

“By June 2021, the health Service had lost more than twice the number of nurses that left the service in the whole of 2020,” he said.

He said while disparities between staff establishments at local level against those at national level remained, the magnitude of such discrepancies had been narrowed down to a few provinces.

Dr Sikosana said the shortage of critical skills still persisted in the sector despite invitations for retired nurses to re-join the service as the sector is generally perceived to be unattractive, especially by skilled and experienced staff.

Government has already embarked on a deliberate plan to improve the lives and conditions of services for health care workers through the provision of non monetary benefits among others.

The move is expected to reduce the rate at which skilled staff is leaving service.

Dr Sikosana said the HSB would work towards refining its strategy for the period 2021-2023 in line with national priority areas defined in the National Development Strategy-1 (NDS-1) with particular focus on making inputs towards human capital development and the health and well-being of Zimbabweans. 

“We will develop a rolling plan that is premised on the work we started at the beginning of 2021 and whose cumulative outputs will be reviewed at the end of 2023. 

“The year 2022 therefore will thus provide an opportunity to undertake a mid-term review of the 3-year plan. 

“The whole-of Government approach as embedded in the Integrated Results Based Management system demands a culture of high performance, continuous improvement, accountability and quality health service delivery across the health sector. 

“In order to respond and comply with these requirements, the Board will rely on the existing strengths within the health system that include a skilled, knowledgeable and professional health work-force as well as promoting development and harnessing innovation, research and development,” added Dr Sikosana.

He reiterated the importance of adopting principles of continuous improvement of systems to help monitor progress towards achievement of set results, goals and outcomes.

Some of the key areas to be budgeted for during the period include governance and administration, pay and benefits management,  human capital development as well as improved operational efficiency, conditions of service, staff establishment, human resources for health performance in the sector and increased specialised skills.