Nurse shortages in rural clinics
28 October 2016
GOVERNMENT has been called to strengthen its primary health care in the wake of critical shortages of nurses especially in rural clinics.
Acting chairperson of the health and child care parliamentary portfolio committee, Honourable Sibanda said while these primary health institutes were critical in the health delivery system, they were seriously short staffed with most of the clinics being manned by one nurse.
“While most of these clinics offer the best services in the communities, they seriously remain short staffed, something which has incapacitated the critical facilities.
“There is need to unfreeze health posts and as this is done, nurses should also be considered as critical staff,” he said.
Hon Sibanda bemoaned how the health sector was now aware of the concrete figures of how many employees it required to meet the current disease burden while it has continued to work with a staff establishment which was developed in the 1980s.
“While the disease burden has increased in the country, which requires more health workers especially nurses, the number of workers has not increased to match the burden of care.
“In a meeting that we had with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, we were informed that the country required about 5 000 cadres to fill up the 1980 establishment,” said Hon Sibanda
According to the 1980 establishments, the Health sector required 33 000 health workers but according to Honourable Sibanda 23 000 were currently employed, leaving a gap of about 5 000 vacancies.
Women Action Group director, Margaret Masiiwa during a presentation of findings from a community programme that was run in the country’s six districts concurred that there were acute nurse shortages in rural clinics while the disease burden had increased, a developed that has strained and demoralised the existing nurses.
Masiiwa said with most clinics being manned by one qualified nurse, the facility is forced to close its doors if the nurse fails to report for duty, worsening the plight of the rural populace.
“We noted that there were limited number of health workers at rural health centres which put a strain on the available cadres,”
“In our programme, we were encouraging communities to take up health services but in the process we noted several challenges that impeded access to health services,” she said.
The WAG director urged the Government to prioritise recruitments of nursing staff to ensure
an effective health service delivery system noting that the rural facilities were also inadequate with villagers having to walk for more than 11km to access the nearest clinic.
Commenting on the issue recently, Health Services Board chief executive Ruth Kaseke said they were seized with all the challenges in the country’s health facilities adding that Treasury had unfreezed posts for specialised health workers with little progress in nursing area.
“With approval from Treasury, we have been recruiting specialists while the general nursing staff has remained under staffed.”
According to the Health Services Board, about 3 000 nurses were jobless.
Caption: Villagers during the WAG meeting at a rural clinic