By Thandeka Moyo
Retention allowances for doctors deployed at district hospitals have been cut by 87 percent following reduction of funding from the Government’s development partners.The doctors are now getting $88 retention allowance per month, down from $682 which was being paid since 2009 when the Health Worker Retention Scheme was launched.
Responding to questions during the National Assembly’s question and answer session last week on behalf of Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa, the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Petronella Kagonye said the Government has not been able to improve salaries for all its employees due to funding challenges.
“A doctor in the district is with effect from last month receiving $88,65 retention allowance from the health worker retention (Global Fund), down from $682 when the scheme started.
The Health Worker Retention Scheme was set up in 2009 with the support of development partners to complement Government efforts to remunerate and retain its workers,” said Minister Kagonye.
“It contributed immensely to the presence of motivated health workers at all levels of the health systems, especially doctors at district hospitals.”
She said development partners had reduced their contribution to the Health Worker Retention Scheme.
The Minister said one of the conditions the development partners set when assisting the country was that levels of their financial support would decline as from 2012 on the understanding that Government would gradually increase payments to its employees.
“The Ministry continues to lobby for continued support to health worker retention, which is sensitive to the differences in working environments and maintains rather than destroys team work.
“Health workers in difficult to reach areas like Siakobvu in Mashonaland West and Gokwe North District in the Midlands province should have higher retention rates in order for health institutions to attract and retain health workers,” she said.
Minister Kagonye said the Global Fund continues to support health worker retention at reduced rates which are not very attractive.
“The Health Development Fund (HDF) is now supporting Results Based Financing which channels resources to health facilities, 25 percent of which can be used for health worker retention allowances,” she said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Mr Itai Rusike said the reduction in the allowances will demotivate health workers.
“Health workers are operating under a frustrating environment because of too much work and this has reduced staff morale. The retention allowance comes in as an incentive to motivate health workers. When that incentive is reduced, it creates an atmosphere of depression among workers. They are reducing the allowance at a time when the dollar is no longer buying much,” he said.
Mr Rusike said the Government should come up with other ways of mobilising additional resources to enable it to pay a reasonable retention allowance.
“We spend a lot of money training nurses and doctors but at the end of the day they are forced to leave the country because of poor salaries,” he said.
Mr Rusike urged Government to also introduce non-cash incentives in the face of funding challenges.
“We should be in line with the standards in our region so that we avoid losing some of our experienced health workers to neighbouring countries.
“Government should also come up with non-cash incentives.
“We have seen in other sectors like tourism, where their workers are allowed to import three cars duty free.
“If that can be extended to health workers, it could be an incentive,” he said.
Mr Rusike said Government can even come up with housing schemes for health workers. The Chronicle