MATABELELAND South is facing a critical shortage of doctors that has forced Gwanda provincial hospital, servicing a region of four million people, to operate
without a single doctor.
The medical superintendent for Gwanda hospital, Dr Gordon Bango, is having to double up as doctor and administrator due to a critical staff shortage.
Bango performs the duties of 12 doctors who are supposed to service the whole province.
Investigations by the Zimbabwe Independent revealed that the province needs 12 doctors and nine specialists, but was relying on Bango.
Critically ill patients needing specialist attention are referred to major hospitals in Bulawayo, about 200km from the Matabeleland South capital.
Gwanda provincial hospital is supposed to have a complement of nine specialist doctors.
The critical manpower shortage has created long queues at the hospitals as patients wait to be attended to. Many are turned away as Bango cannot cope with the huge number of people seeking treatment.
Health and Child Welfare deputy minister, Dr Edwin Muguti confirmed the shortage of doctors at the hospital when contacted for comment last week.
He said the situation at Gwanda provincial hospital mirrored a nationwide crisis faced by government health institutions.
“The shortage of doctors is being felt countrywide and efforts are under way to bring in doctors. We recently signed an agreement with Korea and they will be providing us with doctors,” Muguti said.
“We have existing relations with Cuba and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who supply us with doctors.”
An expatriate doctor from the DRC who used to assist Bango left last month after the expiry of his contract with the government.
Muguti said his ministry had put in place measures to alleviate the massive brain-drain that is affecting service delivery in the country.
“The ministry has improved conditions of service for doctors in the country by giving them housing, transport and rural allowances,” he said. “We will continue training more doctors.”
The collapsing health delivery sector in Zimbabwe is characterised by shortages of almost all essential medicines and flight of trained medical staff among other problems.