We will die out here: patients left stranded as strike rages in Zimbabwe
Writhing in pain, Owen Togara sits uncomfortably in a wheelchair clutching his bleeding leg at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
Togara was involved in a near fatal accident in Shurugwi on Monday on their way from a funeral, with half a dozen relatives on board a kombi.
Of the six on board, Togara, his young brother whose thigh was ripped off in the accident and his uncle were injured.
With nurses and doctors on strike, the family was left stranded at Parirenyatwa where they had visited to seek medical attention.
Arriving at the hospital at midnight on Monday, Togara and his family was dismayed to hear that no one was willing to attend to them.
“We had to beg those on duty to admit my brother who suffered a bad injury on his thigh. He is inside but they haven’t attended to him. He was crying all night, we did not know what to do,” Togara mourns.
As he recounts their heart wrenching ordeal, a relative listening carefully weighs in.
“We are stranded here and had to sleep in the kombi. There was blood all over because the wounds are still fresh. This is disheartening. The strike has really affected some of us who depend on the public health system for help,” the relative said.
The family is contemplating seeking medical attention at Karanda Mission Hospital, after hearing that nurse were still working in areas outside cities.
His uncle, Tobias Shavane 65 is sitting under a tree with a broken arm. They have used cardboard to support the arm.
“I slept here but no one is attending to me. The nurses and doctors say they should be paid more money before they can treat me,” lamented Shavane.
A dirty bandage served as a sling for his arm while his swollen hand was strapped to a blood-stained piece of a cardboard box.
He is visibly in pain and requires urgent medical attention.
“I am in pain but there is nothing I can do. They say the nurses are on strike, so we just must look for help elsewhere. This strike is affecting us,” Shavane said.
Shavane is among thousands of patients stuck following health workers’ strike around the country.
Medical staff at the country’s public health facilities went on strike after refusing a below inflation salary increase offered by government last week.
Desperate patients sat in the hospital parking lot or on the hospital grounds with little hope of getting help.
When the The NewsReportLive spoke to Miriam Matembo, she was contemplating visiting a prophet to get help.
“They told me my situation is not an emergency. I have nowhere else to go because I can’t afford to go to a private hospital,” said Miriam Matembo, who brought her 11-year-old daughter who was suffering from stomach pains. The girl lay on ground, visibly in pain. “I may just have to return home with her or visit a prophet.”
Most of the nurses who received $ZW20 000 last week, protested poor pay to force government to act.
With government refusing to give in, maintaining that they will not pay salaries in US dollars, nurses and doctors say they will continue to press their demand for better pay as the local currency slumps.
While nurses and doctors protested in a courtyard at Parirenyatwa Hospital, patients lay helplessly on patched grass and under trees.
Those who arrived at the hospital at midnight on Monday had not been attended to by Tuesday afternoon with many being turned away,
The government and health workers are at an impasse after inflation jumped to 131.7% in May, a grim echo of the hyperinflation that wiped out people’s savings a decade ago.
Now a week-old Zimbabwe Nurses Association leader, Enock Dongo said patients were feeling pinch of the strike.
“Patients are stranded. It is an urgent issue which we call upon the President to urgently address,” Dongo said.
Dongo said the Health Services Board had also refused to meet health workers for the past 14 months.
He added that people will die because of the Health Services Board’s arrogance.
““If you look at the number of the health workers outside, and the brain drain that has happened over the past months, it means we are already short staffed. To have this large number of health workers outside, we know that there is a disaster in there. We call urgently a dialogue with government. This should not go for 24 hours then we are going to lose lives. It is not good for out country,” Dongo said.
Health workers are demanding US$540 a month, the pay they used to receive in 2018 before the local currency slumped.
“Government is currently seized with the issue of addressing remuneration gaps affecting the entire civil service. Already a 100% pay rise has been effected across the board on top of the $175 covid allowance,” Information deputy Minister, Kindness Paradza said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time leader Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has struggled to end an economic crisis that started under his predecessor.