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Clinics in crisis as nurses exit Zimbabwe over R1,000 per month salaries

Health clinics in Zimbabwe are facing a crisis as increasing numbers of nurses leave the country in search of better prospects, reports the BBC’s Shingai Nyoka.

The state Health Service Board says that just more than 2,200 medical personnel left its services last year alone: 900 of them were nurses. This was double the number of staff who left in 2020 and triple that of 2019.

Acting chief nursing officer for the authorities in the capital, Harare, Perpetua Kaseke, said that at Warren Park Polyclinic, there were just four nurses on duty for the whole clinic, which serves hundreds of people daily. Most of her clinics were operating at 50% capacity, she said, adding that nurses are overworked and stressed, and they keep resigning. Twelve nurses left last month alone.

Kaseke said that at one point nine of Harare council’s 43 clinics had scaled down their operations or been closed completely for lack of staff.

Most area heading to the UK or Ireland, others to Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries or to the private sector.

None of the nurses at the clinic wanted to speak to me, I suspect some are processing their papers and preparing to leave. The UK has been on a recruitment drive for medical professionals to plug its own staff shortages due to the impact of the pandemic and Brexit.

Zimbabwe has long underpaid its public sector workers. Nurses employed by the city council earn slightly more than those working in government hospitals.

But in both cases, the nurse on the lowest salary takes home less than R1,000 a month a month, just enough to cover the rent for a two-bedroom house in a low-income neighbourhood, but not much else. And they are fed up.

It wasn’t always like this. public health facilities in Zimbabwe were once envied by other sub-Saharan African countries. But they disintegrated due to decades of under-investment.

In 1992, former first lady Sally Mugabe chose to be treated for kidney failure in a public hospital right up to her death.

More than 25 years later, it was a different story for her husband: former President Robert Mugabe opted to be treated in a private hospital in Singapore, where he later died, far away from the crumbling public healthcare system of his homeland.

So what’s it like for the nurses who do settle in the UK?

One nurse, who has been there since last July, described, with a sense of accomplishment, that he now earns about 10 times what he did in Harare, even though British nurses have low pay relative to other professions in the UK.

The money he sends back home goes a long way. He can afford to send his children to boarding schools in Zimbabwe and support relatives in a difficult position. He has no plans to return any time soon.

 

BBC News article – Zimbabwe clinics struggle for nurses after exodus to UK (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Zimbabwe wants compensation for brain drain of nurses and doctors

 

Massive UK nursing shortage sucks in Kenyan, South African and Zimbabwean nurses

 

Zimbabwe raises government worker salaries after nurses' strike

 

COVID-19 exposes Zimbabwe's heart-rending health crisis

 

Desperate Zimbabweans go to Zambia for medical care

 

 

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