Zimbabwe hospitals ‘overwhelmed’ as health workers’ strike enters second week

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The strike by doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe – now entering its second week – is crippling the country’s fight against Covid-19.

There are 489 positive cases, as health minister Obadiah Moyo faces allegations of abusing his office.

An outfit calling itself the Zimbabwe Young Nurses Association (ZYNA) on Monday pleaded with health workers to return to work because “lives matter more than money”.

The only health-care practitioners at work are student nurses, newly employed staff on probation and nursing managers from the rank of sister-in-charge.

“We are overwhelmed,” said a nurse from one of Bulawayo’s referral hospitals. “In some hospitals, we now discover Covid-19 cases from people who are admitted for other ailments. Once we find out these cases, all nurses that would have attended to the patient are traced and then they go home for two weeks self-quarantine. That means the hospital is worse off, with fewer people.”

Tenacity Moyo, a hospital visitor, pleaded for the government to address the nurses’ plight. She said when she arrived at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) it was in a sorry state.

“There’s the one-visit-per-day policy in place because of Covid-19. Usually when it’s three visits per day, we help our loved ones do some things while nurses worry about the medical side. Right now there’s no one helping the sick. With the nurses on strike, it’s worse,” she said.

The Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association (ZSHDA) in a statement summed up the biggest crisis at the moment.

“The situation at the hospitals is now dire. There is no care available as health-care workers cannot afford to come to work anymore,” it said.

The recent Covid-19 looting scandal makes it worse. Health and childcare minister Obadiah Moyo appeared in court on Saturday charged with abuse of office. Moyo allegedly corruptly issued $60m (R1.04bn) in tenders to supply Covid-19 test kits and medical equipment to obscure companies linked to the political elite.

If found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in jail.

“We condemn the looting of funds meant for the Covid-19 fight and for capacitating our hospitals,” added the association.