By Phyllis Mbanje
Free-lance journalist Kudzai Madzivire counts himself among millions of Zimbabweans that feel let down by the government after he tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes Covid-19.
Madzivire had just returned to Harare after accompanying members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport on a countrywide tour to assess infrastructure when he tested positive last month.
The 29-year-old journalist first learnt through social media that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and that marked the beginning of a nightmare for him.
Madzivire, who is diabetic, is now admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital’s red zone, which is designated for Covid-19 patients.
Frustrated by the poor treatment that followed the diagnosis and his hospitalisation, the journalist has decided to go public about his ordeal.
He told The Standard that trouble started when one of the legislators, who was part of the tour, started exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms.
“We were in Gweru by then and seeing that the condition of the legislator was getting worse and the symptoms matching those of Covid-19, we were all taken for testing at Birchenough clinic, which is a Gweru City Council facility,” Madzivire said.
After the tests on July 26, the group travelled back to Harare as the trip had been cancelled.
As he was still processing the dramatic turn of events, Madzivire was shocked the next morning when the results of the Covid-19 tests started making rounds on social media and he was one of those that had tested positive.
“I had overslept that day and when I woke up, my inbox was inundated with messages of concern from my colleagues,” he said.
For two days the journalist did not receive any communication about the positive results.
“That was the hardest part, considering the stigma surrounding the disease,” he said.
The journalist began developing mild Covid-19 symptoms that same day and he resorted to using home made remedies.
His condition, however, deteriorated, forcing him to reach out to the Health and Child Care ministry’s Covid-19 rapid response team without success.
“I could not even walk, and was clearly struggling to breathe,” Madzivire said from his hospital bed.
After many calls and desperate pleas, he was finally admitted at Parirenyatwa’s red zone last Monday.
“I have been assisted with oxygen and paracetamol, but for the other medication my family has had to get it from other sources,” he said.
At Parirenyatwa Hospital, the journalist came face to face with the country’s collapsed health delivery system.
The C4 ward, where Madzivire is admitted is manned by only two nurses as a result of the over a month-long strike by health workers over poor working conditions.
“They are trying their best, but there are only two of them serving the whole lot of us,” he said.
Madzivire said he felt helpless watching the overwhelmed nurses trying their best to attend to patients with limited resources.
“Medication is scarce and its heartbreaking when you witness a fellow patient dying,” he said.
Madzivire witnessed the death of an elderly patient, who was on the bed closest to him.
“Mortuary guys delayed in retrieving the body,” the scribe said.
“His bed was next to mine.
“I watched him struggle to breathe until he lost the battle.”
The journalist was traumatised by the incident along with other patients, who witnessed the death.
Madzivire is now recovering well and might be discharged any day.
But he fears the way his case was handled would cause permanent damage considering that most Zimbabweans still do not have enough information about Covid-19, leading to the stigmatisation of those suffering from the disease.
Madzivire asked: “After all this, how will go I back to work with the stigma surrounding this disease?
“Will people want to sit next to me during events?
“People like me will require support and counselling to be able to return to normalcy,” he said.
Parirenyatwa Hospital said the strike by nurses and doctors was affecting the handling of Covid-19 patients.
“As such, we would like to thank the few nurses and doctors who are working very hard and doing a splendid job in the Covid-19 centre,” the hospital said in response to Madzivire’s claim of lack of proper care.
The hospital also defended delays in removing the body of the patient, who died in the ward where the journalist is admitted.
“It should be understood that collection of bodies from the red zone is not an ordinary process,” the hospital said.
“There are protocols to be followed, which include donning (of personal protective equipment) by the mortuary staff before collecting the body.”
Zimbabwe has in recent weeks recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
As of Friday, the country had recorded 4 451 cases of the flu-like disease and 102 deaths.