By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
20 March 2014
Parirenyatwa hospital has not been spared by the water crisis which has engulfed Harare, with patients sometimes going for nearly a week without water, Parliament has heard.
A Thursday NewsDay report said CEO Thomas Zigora told the parliamentary portfolio committee on health that water was a ‘major issue’, with the hospital regularly going without drinking water for as many as four days. According to the report Zigora said so serious is the crisis that the hospital is planning to build a standby 600,000 litre reservoir. At the moment the institution has got five boreholes, but only three have drinking water.
Water problems at Parirenyatwa have gone on for years and last year relatives of patients admitted there were asked to bring in water from their homes to avert an outbreak of water borne diseases.
The report said Zigora also revealed that the hospital is owed over $40 million in unpaid fees, a problem which has resulted in the institution failing to acquire beds and consumables. Zigora said sometimes patients are accommodated in the casualty section when the wards are full. He said so serious is the problem that at times major operations are postponed because there is no space in the Intensive Care Unit.
According to SW Radio Africa correspondent Simon Muchemwa administrators at the hospital said the problem was made worse by frequent power cuts. He said: ‘According to administrators even the few available boreholes are in most cases useless because of power cuts. Without electricity the boreholes don’t work and that tends to affect the institution across all departments.’
Parirenyatwa, which is one of the country’s biggest referral centers, is not an isolated case. Last month the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) revealed that it was facing operational problems due to unpaid fees. CEO Nonhlanhla Ndlovu said UBH was owed $9 million by the scandal ridden Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS). At the same time, PSMAS made headlines with reports that top executives were pocketing tens of thousands of dollars per month while their subscribers failed to get treatment because of debts.
For years the government has been criticised for underfunding the health sector. Experts say the health budget allocation has continued to dwindle resulting in government failing to meet demands in the sector.
In his 2014 budget statement, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated $337 million to the health ministry out of a total budget of $4.4 billion. In 2013 the ministry was allocated $407 million out of an annual budget of $3.8 billion.
According to a local health think-tank, the Community Working Group on Health, these allocations don’t meet what is stipulated by the 2001 African Union Abuja Declaration. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the agreement under which governments undertook to ensure that 15 percent of their annual budget goes towards the improvement of the health sector.
For years it is only financial support from western donors that has stopped the complete collapse of all health systems in Zimbabwe.