GOVERNMENT has revised the nursing staff establishment to 25 000, up from about 16 500 to match the current burden of care being experienced by public health institutions, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has said.In an interview on the sidelines of this year’s International Day of Midwives commemorations held at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo recently, Dr Parirenyatwa said the revised staff establishment would absorb all the unemployed nurses and there would be room to employ 5 000 more.
“We have established what we actually need because all that was being done all along was establishing the number of vacancies in already existing posts. Now we are projecting on what we actually need (versus the growing burden of care) as a country,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“We are now saying that the establishment is too small and the latest establishment shows how many nurses are needed to top up. For example, Masvingo General Hospital has 188 nurses, but we want 40 more nurses to top up so that we meet the recommended patient-nurse ratio,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
The ideal nurse-patient ratio is one nurse per every four patients, but in Zimbabwe one nurse attends to at least 15 patients at any given time, compromising the quality of health services rendered.
The revised nursing establishment, however, does not have a specific number of posts for specialised nurses such as midwives, a situation midwifery tutors described as an injustice to maternal health delivery in the country.
Dr Parirenyatwa advised the midwives to consult widely with all stakeholders on the feasibility of a separate establishment and modalities of its implementation.
“You might need to have an all stakeholders meeting to consult on how that can be done taking into consideration rural health facilities that are manned by very few cadres in comparison to large central hospitals,” he said during a roundtable meeting earlier with the midwives.
UNFPA country representative Mr Cheikh Tidiane Cisse, who also attended the roundtable meeting pledged to support the midwives in their quest for recognition in the public health delivery system.
According to UNFPA, midwives curb at least 90 percent of maternal deaths.
In Zimbabwe, an average of 610 women in every 100 000 die due to pregnancy or related complications, majority of which can be averted by delivering under supervision from a skilled midwife.
Government embarked on a process to revise staff establishments in 2010 following a job freeze by Treasury on all Government posts. The last revision of staff requirement in the health sector was last done in the 1960s and this is the requirement in use.
Following revelations that all the vacant posts in line with the 1960 establishments were filled, Treasury banned recruitment of additional staff resulting in nurse graduates failing to get employment in the public sector.
To date, over 3 500 nurses are unemployed yet Zimbabwe’s population and the burden of care has also increased over the years.
According to the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, the unemployed nurses might need to undergo retraining should they eventually be absorbed into the system lest they lose skills imparted during training. herald