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Treasury should seriously consider health sector

Health financing has remained topical in the country with the health sector getting far less than its expectations.

A STRONG health system is a prerequisite for sound economic development.

It is undeniable that health and development are symbiotic in nature. The World Health Organisation put forward six building blocks constituting the health system and failure of one pillar means a shambolic and shaky structure.

Many Zimbabweans are losing confidence in the public health system which has been characterised by drug shortages, demotivated workforce, obsolete equipment, maladministration and corruption to mention just a few ills. The problems seem to be perennial and it now requires diligent and dedicated leadership if lasting solutions are to be found.

Health financing has remained topical in the country with the health sector getting far less than its expectations. In 2022, budgetary allocation to the Health ministry was around 10,6%, while in 2023, it stood at 11,2% of the national budget.

These figures are not convincing considering the Abuja Declaration that stipulates that for African countries to make health milestones, at least 15% of their national budgets should be allocated to the health sector.

If capital budgeting is considered, then Treasury should be serious about the health sector. Arguments may arise that the health sector has access to US$200 million yearly through the donor community, but sustainability of any programmes cannot depend on donor support. Donors can withdraw anytime if they feel uncomfortable or if they run into financial or other pressing problems as the situation now when their services are in demand in a world where wars are igniting left, right and centre.

There is a myriad of challenges in the health sector, chief among them being the incessant brain-drain which is threatening our health system. Health workforce is an important building block of any health system.

Some unverified information doing the rounds claim that at least 5 000 nurses have emigrated to foreign lands for better opportunities. If, indeed, this is true, this is disturbing news and it is an insurmountable task for the incoming health leadership that is trying to contain the migration nemesis.

Hospitals are now seen as death traps with no drugs, personnel and tools of the trade. The country requires in excess of US$16 million per month for drugs and more to cater for the available 5 700 workers. The same workers are demotivated, morale is at its lowest and government should move speedily to curb brain-drain.

The country is a training ground for workers, only to lose them to developed countries which poach from us after having spent millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money training  the health personnel.

Questions still linger as to why there is no permanent solution to the crisis in the health sector.

Many ministers have come and gone, many directors are in office, new chief executive officers have come, alas, no notable change in health service delivery is witnessed. The biggest asset of any organisation is the human resource and failure to pay attention to the health workforce is tantamount to complete destruction of the health sector.

Government has capacity to improve the conditions of service to its workers, but the implementation stage is where failure sets in. Salaries should be comparable to the southern African region and no one would leave our country for work in Namibia.

This calls for seriousness on the part of government to incentivise its workers with vehicle loans, residential stands, farming land and duty-free facilities. There has been a chorus for such considerations but for years, responsible ministers have only paid lip service.

The Finance ministry should be at the forefront of restoring the public health system in the country, but continues to fail the nation. We continue to suffer from outbreaks of embarrassing diseases like cholera, a stone-age era disease that should not find space in the 21st century.

Strengthening our water infrastructure remains critical and observance of good sanitation if the diarrhoeal disease is to be contained. It is time the Finance ministry took a serious look at the Health ministry if we are to be a country with a sound health system.

Vision 2030 should be made easier by funding the health sector, which is possible if government expenditure is reduced. Universal health coverage for all of us should come sooner than later!


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