Stock outs of essential drugs, doctors’ strike worrisome
15 March 2018
HIV Talk With Beatrice Tonhodzayi
I have been following reports of the strike by doctors and the impact this is having on the public across the country with a sore heart. It is always worrisome when staff in the essential services such as doctors, nurses, teachers and others; down tools. I can just imagine the loss of life. I can just imagine the unnecessary complications that come as a result of these job actions. What about the pain sick people are going through? Truth be told; all one of us needs to do is be sick or remember how it feels to be seriously sick. If you take yourself back to that moment of serious sickness; truth be told; you will know that when the body is not well; the one thing on one’s mind is to be seen by a medical doctor so that a diagnosis and treatment can follow.
I worry even more when we talk of public hospitals bearing the brunt of all these problems. This is because public hospitals are the hospitals that members of the public go to. No one goes to the hospital with a minor ailment. By the time one goes to a hospital; things will be serious. Hence; we worry when we hear reports that more and more doctors that normally take up the bulk of the work in these institutions are downing tools. I have even become more alarmed after seeing media reports saying that some senior doctors and nurses have also joined in the strike. Should this be true; this is very alarming indeed. We all ought to sit up and take notice.
While I would join in the calls being made by Government for the doctors to return to work while their grievances are dealt with; I would also like to point out to Government that an aggrieved medical or health services provider is not the best of person to attend to patients.
It is almost like a waiter in a restaurant. There is an unspoken code to never irritate waiters in the restaurant too much. They have too much power. Who knows what they will do to your food; is always the question on my mind?
I know of many episodes when we have soldiered on eating food we are not too pleased with because of our hesitancy to irritate the one who is holding our food. You can never play with someone who is holding the plate of food you wish to eat. It goes into your stomach after all. The same applies with someone who stands between you and your recovery. Doctors and nurses to me; are God’s very own aides. They work with God’s own anointing; as far as I am concerned.
That’s is why it is important for them to be rewarded for the crucial work that they do. Truth be told, it is not an easy task to look after sick people. Doctors have brought some very sick people from the very brink of death and for that; we need to applaud them. Doctors have taken people who are badly damaged following road traffic accidents and literally pieced them together.
Goodness knows that without a proper diagnosis, there are no chances of recovery in some cases. Doctors and nurses and the entire chain within the health services sector are all of critical importance, whose grievances we must sympathise with.
Truth be told; most of the incomes in the civil service are very low. With the cost of living steadily going up in the country; many of us find ourselves in a game of calculations daily trying to keep our heads above the water. Hence the doctors’ grievances are not totally unjustified. They are feeling the pinch. While the Government is calling for time; itself also in a fix, as it cannot afford the ideal package that would satisfy our medical professionals; what must be of major concern is the crisis that could result from this stand off. If more and more hospitals fail to attend to all those in need of health services because there are no doctors in attendance; lives will be lost.
If there was ever a time when Zimbabwe needed all her hands on deck, then it certainly is now. We cannot afford to lose lives.
That is why the strike by doctors must be resolved and resolved soon. Now when you look at the strike and you put it alongside the reports of a shortage of a key preventive drug; Nevirapine; which is used in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme to ensure that babies born to HIV positive mothers are prevented from getting the virus from their mothers, you can only shudder. Infants who get a single dose of the drug after birth and whose mothers also take the same are less likely to get infected with HIV at birth or during breastfeeding.
Zimbabwe has been doing very well in terms of its PMTCT programme. Zimbabwe is a success story in terms of its National response to HIV. Hence we must not backslide. We cannot afford to. In this day and age; it would be sad if any baby was exposed to HIV infection when there have been so many strides to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV.
I am glad to note that the Permanent Secretary for Health, Major General Dr Gerald Gwinji has assured the nation that this issue is being attended to and will soon be addressed. Rightly so; for we need to get to a point where such things never happen. Such things take us back. They take us backwards. And we need to ensure that we do not ever let the gains we would have made be eroded. Our health delivery system must remain functional. Our medicines and drugs supplies must always be available. Stock outs take us back. They threaten our wellbeing as a society. We have our targets that we set towards achieving the goals we have set ourselves as a nation. We can only close the tap on new HIV infections if we ensure our systems are in order. We can also only preserve lives by ensuring that health workers and health facilities are equipped with sufficient and well- motivated manpower as well as supplies.
To this end we call upon the relevant stakeholders in all these issues to find each other and find each other soon. Zimbabweans stand to suffer otherwise.