Doctors’ leader tells of Zimbabwe’s ‘silent genocide’

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Zimbabwe’s hospitals are the site of “a silent genocide”, accepting all referrals but lacking most basics – gloves, bandages, even Paracetamol, writes Nomatter Ndebele in Maverick Citizen.

Ndebele writes that Dr Peter Magombeyi, the doctors’ leader, is a testament to the fact that seeking healthcare services in Zimbabwe is as dangerous as truth-telling.

Magombeyi, who was abducted a month ago after leading demonstrations against the intolerable conditions that healthcare givers in Zimbabwe are working under, is recuperating in South Africa after seeking care for a medical condition associated with his abduction.

He says in a Daily Maverick report that the salaries of doctors in Zimbabwe have been slashed from $1,800 a month to a mere $80. This left doctors unable to sustain themselves and their families. Many of them cannot even afford to pay for transportation. The drastic salary cut was never communicated to doctors officially: the news came via an SMS notification.

The report says the public healthcare system in Zimbabwe has become dysfunctional even at the lowest level of care. The primary healthcare system is severely incapacitated, forcing their referrals onto even more incapacitated central hospitals, which are supposed to cater to the needs of patients from all over the country.

Magombeyi, who practises as a doctor at the Harare Central Hospital, said the current working conditions of healthcare practitioners were tantamount to slave labour. “Imagine being in a hospital that accepts all referrals, and then not having things as simple as gloves or bandages. Patients have to buy and bring their own test tubes,” Magombeyi said. 

In some instances, patients are forced to buy medication privately. “We don’t even have Paracetamol,” Magombeyi said.

He described the situation in Zimbabwean hospitals as a “silent genocide”. 

“There are very high rates of death linked to HIV/Aids as well as chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Thousands of people have died,” Magombeyi is quoted in the report as saying. On 21 October, doctors in Zimbabwe had been on an “incapacitated” demonstration for 50 days. None of them has received a salary since they embarked on demonstrations against the government. Magombeyi said the government had refused to respond to the healthcare crisis with any degree of urgency. He criticised the state for skirting around the issue of remuneration of healthcare givers.

The report says he further refuted government claims that there were only five doctors who were disgruntled with the state of affairs and influencing other doctors to take part in the demonstrations. “How can 1,600 doctors be influenced by five people? Our requests are not a matter of greed, we are not being unreasonable either, our patients are dying. Thousands have already died. If we don’t advocate for them, who will?” asked Magombeyi.

Despite the doctors’ continued action of incapacitation, the report says Magombeyi clarified that the collective job action was structured so that emergency cases were still attended to.

Full Daily Maverick report

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