Medical staff exodus: Zimbabwe groans under worsening shortage of hands

An exodus of medical staff has left Zimbabwe’s healthcare system reeling amidst a worsening shortage of hands.

How bad is it?
Nearly 1,800 nurses – more than 10% of the country’s public hospital workforce – emigrated in 2021. The remaining hands, who cater to multiple times the ideal number of patients and in decrepit hospitals, are left exhausted and demoralized. A 52-year-old nurse, Virginia Mutsamwira, described how exhausted and frustrated the remaining hands are. “There are not enough nurses”, she said, as she lamented their inability to provide quality healthcare.

Only One Alternative!
In the midst of all these, the unmotivated medical staff continues to pursue the alternative of migrating abroad, worsening an already distressed health sector. Virginia has passed the English test required to obtain a visa to the United Kingdom, where the pay is multiple times higher than Zimbabwe’s average of €190 per month. Describing a severe under-equipment, another nurse, Josephine Marare, lamented having to work in a hospital “where there are no dressings, no water or basic medicines like painkillers”.

How is the government addressing these issues?
The Zimbabwean government has had a limited capacity to fix the problems, after more than a decade of economic crisis. Like the country’s economy, which has been plagued by serious crisis for more than a decade, the health system is in its death throes. The government’s Health Service Board, which grades and appoints health staff in the public sector, acknowledged concern over the exodus of medical staff. Recruitment and training are reported to have begun, and retired nurses have also returned to work

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