Red flag for maternal health services

The Herald

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Health Reporter

Harare City Council’s failure to provide maternal health services to women in some of its polyclinics could lead to a spike in maternal mortality rates as expectant mothers travel longer distances while health professionals call for urgent interventions to protect the lives of women and newborn babies.

The local authority admitted last week that it was struggling to provide services to expectant mothers at Glen View and Budiriro Polyclinics as only half of the maternity nurse positions were filled and Covid-19 reported even fewer nurses. The city council also recently decided to close nine clinics in the city due to a lack of healthcare staff.

Matabeleland North Legislator Dr. Ruth Labode said limited access to maternal health services was a recipe for disaster as it would affect death rates. “That means many women will die and our maternal mortality rate will increase. “.

Zimbabwe continues to have a high maternal mortality rate with 462 deaths per 100,000 live births (as of 2019). The number could have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Labode said the main cause of the challenge was the skill flight observed in the country as most health workers seek employment in other countries within the region and beyond.

“It is unfortunate that so many nurses are leaving the country to look for work elsewhere. Our biggest challenge is that our health professionals as a country are not being paid salaries equivalent to what is on offer in other countries so they will definitely leave when the opportunity presents itself. We should look into adjusting health workers’ salaries so that they can stay. Right now we’re training for the rest of the region and the world while we’re getting nothing for ourselves, ”she said.

More than 2,000 health professionals left for other countries last year, more than twice as many as in 2020.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the closure of some of the community’s clinics due to staffing issues requires urgent attention from the relevant authorities.

“It has restricted access to qualified midwives and increases the cost and barrier of access to services for women, demonstrating the urgent need for the city council to improve the service conditions for its staff. Aside from the general inputs that all people need for health, women also need reproductive health support services, pregnancy, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of infections such as HIV, childbirth and child care, including nutrition during pregnancy ” , he said.

“Many highly skilled health professionals have left the public health service either to work overseas or to set up in private practice. Although education has increased in recent years, it is not enough to stop the flow; Wages, salaries and working conditions must also urgently be considered. “

In an effort to provide solutions to the threat of staff emigration, the Health Service Board conducted a study last year to determine the remuneration of health workers in countries where health workers are migrating to help the government reorganize salaries.

Although the government increased wages by up to 140 percent in 2021, inflationary pressures cut incomes.

“We’re not saying the government should pay our workers the same as the UK or Canada, but we want them to see how other countries value and pay their health workers as they compare the working conditions for local workers to those in Botswana, Namibia . South Africa, Lesotho and other countries whose economies are almost the same as ours and then make a decision, ”said HSB Chairman Dr. Paulinus Sikhosana last month.

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