The Sunday News
Limukani Ncube, Editor
MPILO Central Hospital Clinical Director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya has said his staff will continue to attend to patients seeking medical services despite the ongoing strike by some doctors.
In an interview last Thursday, Dr Ngwenya said he was pleased with the dedication and patriotism shown by a majority of doctors at the institution, as most of them were reporting for duty.
He said from a complement of 204 doctors, 144 were at work, while a majority of medical experts across the country were on strike demanding an upward review of salaries and working conditions.
“I am proud of the doctors and other staff at Mpilo. About 71 percent of doctors across all grades are at work. We have eight who are on leave and 52 doctors who are on strike. While we cannot operate as smoothly as we would wish, we are still able to attend to everyone who comes to the hospital. We attend to over 200 patients every day. We have 600 patients admitted to various wards and they are all getting medical care.
“We have the maternity wing operating fully and we deliver about 30 babies a day with about 10 deliveries through Caesarean operations. This should tell you that we are really doing our best under the circumstances. Whether the doctors who are at work are happy or not is neither here nor there. What is important is that they are dedicated to their work and are on the ground helping people. The problem is that they constantly get threats from some quarters over why they did not join the strike, but we have taken a stance as an institution that we should be here helping our people as not everyone can afford private doctors or private hospitals. Imagine a granny bitten by a snake or crocodile in Lupane, where would she go? We don’t want people to sell their cows and goats because they need medical services. Let those who go to private institutions go there out of their own free will,” said Dr Ngwenya.
Dr Ngwenya said they were screening patients as they come and those with serious ailments and chronic conditions were given special attention.
“Our Intensive Care Unit and theatre section are operational so if you need an operation to save your life we can go there right away. We have a doctor at the outpatients and casualty departments. I can assure the nation that we run lifesaving procedures and we give that vital treatment. We cannot just sit and watch our people die when we can help. In fact, we have not recorded any deaths which we can say could have been avoided if there was no strike by doctors,” he said.
However, Dr Ngwenya said the hospital was facing a challenge of nurses who have decided to work for a few days per week citing incapacitation.
“Nurses, through their union in Harare, have written to us saying they will work two days per week because they do not have money to come to work because of low salaries. This means those who report for duty have to carry all the load. But I understand the Government is looking at that issue to solve it as soon as possible, and I hope doctors and Government also find a solution so that normalcy returns in hospitals across the country.”
The Clinical Director said Mpilo Hospital was a strategic safety net institution which should be available to people all the time.
“What people have to understand is that Mpilo Hospital is the biggest referral hospital in our region and even in the Sadc region. It caters for people from Bulawayo, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North provinces. We cannot interrupt such a vital service provider. Imagine we have a nursing school, midwife training, training of medical students from the National University of Science and Technology and junior doctors. The strike by doctors has taken a long time to be resolved and some hospitals are not functional at all, but at Mpilo we can’t do that. This is a strategic institution in terms of safety nets for our people,” he said.
Nonetheless, when Sunday News visited the health facility on Thursday morning, there were few patients in the casualty and outpatients sections, who were being attended to by nurses.
“There are some people who were seen by nurses and have since gone back to their homes, but I was advised to wait for a doctor. My son is not feeling well and I fear I might lose him. I just have to be patient until the doctor comes as nurses said. I have no other option, even if it means waiting the whole day,” said Mrs Anna Ndlovu from Emakhandeni.
In other hospitals, specialised medical procedures have been suspended, with patients being rebooked and advised to come back when the strike by doctors has ended. Some patients in need of eye specialist attention at Richard Morris at the United Bulawayo Hospitals were rebooked to as far as January 2020.
Meanwhile, disciplinary hearings for striking doctors were scheduled to start last Thursday, with the Health Services Board (HSB) set to pass default judgments on those that absconded the process. The strike was declared illegal by the Labour Court.
HSB board chairman Dr Paulinus Sikosana told our sister paper, The Herald that in the event doctors snub the hearings, the Labour Act provided for default judgments. The doctors went on strike on 3 September.