Saturday, 24 September 2016

GOVT LOOTING HEALTH FUND : NURSES

HUNDREDS of pregnant women and their unborn babies’ lives are at risk due to a serious drugs shortage and worker unrest which has rocked Harare Central Hospital since Wednesday, with nurses accusing government of looting their allowances.

Midwives at the hospital were staging a sit-in protest over the failure by government to pay them allowances under the Unicef-funded Health Transitional Fund (HTF) for over six months now.

“We have not been getting the incentives which have in the past years been set at $59 a month. We have it on good authority that government officials are feeding themselves on money which is ours,” said one of the nurses, who refused to be named.

A meeting to try and resolve the impasse, which was attended by clinical director George Vera and principal nursing officer Lucia Godzongere on Thursday, failed to yield results, resulting in many expecting mothers being turned away from the hospital.

Ministry of Health permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji is reported to have sent Godzengere to read the riot act on the nurses forcing them to go to work or risk losing their salaries for days not worked.

The nurses who attended the meeting convened by Godzongere yesterday said they were not given copies of the strongly-worded letter.

“Gwinji, in the letter, ordered us not to cry over donor funds because the donors were not our employers. He threatened to deduct money from our salaries for the days we have been on a sit-in. We are not sure if he will carry through his threat,” said another nurse.

The health workers said they had now resolved to write to Unicef urging it to discontinue funding the HTF because the money was not reaching them.

“The money is being used to fund the luxurious lives of ministry bosses. We understand that even our matrons get $1 000 every quarter yet they are failing to pay us our $177 per quarter,” said another source.

The nurses said their work was being made more difficult due to the serious shortage of drugs used during major operations.

“We are being forced to operate on pregnant mothers without administering analgesic drugs like morphine or pethedine. Major operations are being conducted on unsedated mothers who have to be so brave to go through the operation,” said a source.

The maternity wing head, only identified as Matron Pedzisai, refused to comment, referring all the questions to her bosses, who were not picking their calls.
Gwinji had not responded to questions sent to him by the time of going to print.


MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party was aware of the challenges faced by expecting mothers at the hospital at a time President Robert Mugabe was draining the fiscus in air travel, expensive birthday parties and party gatherings.

“It’s a cruel regime that could be bothered less by the collapsing health sector. Mugabe and his top government ministers get treated outside Zimbabwe on taxpayers’ money. Even his own grandson was born in a well-equipped hospital outside the country,” Gutu said.

“This is a regime that has since January spent over $40 million on air travel for Mugabe, but has failed to invest just a million in the health sector.”

People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume described Mugabe as a health tourist who was neglecting local hospitals and spending taxpayers’ money in Singapore.

“He has no mercy for the people of Zimbabwe, the amount of money spent on his travels would have bought drugs for all the hospitals for the whole year,” he said. newsday

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