By Thandeka Moyo
Mpilo Central Hospital is facing a critical shortage of doctors amid fears that this may cause unnecessary deaths at the health institution which requires an additional 82 medical practitioners to operate normally.
The hospital is the second biggest referral hospital in Zimbabwe, providing services to people from Bulawayo, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.
Available junior doctors at Mpilo are said to be working about 130 hours a week which is contrary to their contracts.
In an interview yesterday, Mpilo clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said if nothing is done immediately, avoidable deaths are likely to increase at the hospital.
He said when junior doctors were deployed countrywide in January, Mpilo only got 11 instead of 43 like other central hospitals.
“The other affected grade is of hospital medical officers (GMOs) and we are short by 53 due to the fact that the post holders went on manpower development leave. This makes it a total of 82 doctors needed urgently to avoid unnecessary loss of lives and we have been trying to get the deficit of the numbers with no solution in sight,” he said.
Dr Ngwenya said available doctors are being overworked and the situation cannot continue without serious consequences to patients.
“This is not good for our own health and the safety of patients whom we are trying to save under these difficult conditions.
“We need 30 junior doctors urgently and the employer should replace the GMOs. Even though posts were frozen, it’s the only solution to save the institution,” added Dr Ngwenya.
In a letter addressed to Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, junior doctors at Mpilo said they cannot continue working 130 hours per week.
Their representative Dr Mthabisi Bhebhe said Mpilo cannot be run by a few junior doctors with no supervision or assistance from seniors as that compromises the health of members of the public.
“Mpilo Central Hospital is currently facing a serious shortage of junior resident medical officers despite the fact that there are sixty or more juniors doctors who still await deployment.
“The Ministry of Health in the beginning of the year 2019, conveniently undertook to deploy only 11 medical doctors at Mpilo Hospital compared to other central hospitals,” said Dr Bhebhe.
He said the Ministry should take action before June 1 this year as the state of affairs at Mpilo was exposing citizens to preventable deaths.
According to Dr Bhebhe, no junior doctor should be in the casualty ward and doing calls alone for more than twice per week as prescribed in the work contracts.
“Secondly the Ministry of Health must take the health of people in this region seriously by immediately deploying the remaining number of 60 JRMOs who have just completed their studies.
“These measures must bring an end to the situation where surgery junior doctors are made to do calls every single day while their medicine counterparts are made to manage the whole Mpilo casualty alone without due supervision,” added Dr Bhebhe.
Dr Moyo could not be reached for comments but he is on record as saying the Ministry was working on ensuring the current freeze on posts from Treasury does not interfere with hospital operations. The Chronicle