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Candid Commentary: Resolving the Health Care Worker Strike to Save Lives

Brian Chitemba
THE cost of living in Zimbabwe is skyrocketing. It brings back memories of the hyperinflation era of 2008, when inflation was at an all-time high.

The purchasing power of workers has been greatly reduced, especially those earning Zimdollar.

Most workers live well below the poverty line. It is a painful situation.

The hardest hit are civil servants, including health workers, who earn an average of Z$30,000 (US$40) a month.

High levels of poverty have seen nurses and other medical professionals tearing down tools this week.

Major referral hospitals are in crisis as doctors and nurses go on strike.

They demand a living wage of around US$800 per month.

Health workers say the current salaries and additional US$175 allowances related to Covid-19 are an insult to them.

This is why thousands of healthcare professionals have been forced to migrate to other countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA, making Zimbabwe a good case study for the brain drain over the past two decades.

Comparing what healthcare workers in the region earn, this explains why local doctors and nurses are on strike. In Namibia, nurses earn around NAD 22,000 (USD 1,477) while in South Africa they earn around R 28,470 (USD 1,783).

The brain drain and ongoing strike is having an adverse effect on the health care delivery system as patients are stranded.

This week at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, dozens of patients were left without care.

It paints a grim picture of a worsening health crisis.

Zimbabwe’s health sector is already in the intensive care unit. There are no essential medicines and equipment that meet modern hospital standards

The problem is that the ruling elite seeks medical care from the best institutions in South Africa and Asian countries.

This may explain why it seems that no one really cares about the situation in public hospitals.

The penchant for luxury of senior government officials in the midst of a sea of ​​poverty is astonishing.

One of the striking nurses carried a placard expressing her disappointment at the way government ministers and other senior civil servants drive Range Rovers while civil servants are forced to take commuter omnibuses.

In the interests of patients in public hospitals, the government should quickly resolve the crisis.

The poor have no second option. They have no resources to travel to China or Singapore for medical care. The available option was grounded, putting lives at risk.

Government leaders should have a thought for the patients who are suffering. Spare a thought for health workers and other underpaid civil servants.

Underpaid health workers and other civil servants

The amount of natural resources such as gold, platinum, diamond, lithium, and chrome, among others, makes it a contradiction for Zimbabwe to be stuck in endless economic problems.

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