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Hospitals of death

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We have a serious problem with our health delivery system in Zimbabwe. It has stopped delivering health. It has been delivering death. Between February 08 and August 08, 120 people have died as a result of cholera. Everyone acknowledges that this is a direct result of the breakdown in the system. The latest evidence of the breakdown is that most major hospitals have stopped admitting patients. This is because of a combined shortage of medicines, other medical supplies and staff to administer these. This disaster has been presided over by David Parirenyatwa. He is a medical doctor. I am strong proponent of people taking responsibility for their actions or omissions. I have been doing some digging in relation to the ethical responsibilities of doctors. I would guess that most if not all of them take some form of oath when starting their practice. My assumption is that  David Parirenyatwa at some point in his life took an oath pledging the following or at least a variation of the following:

  • To consecrate his life in the service of humanity
  • To practice his profession with conscience and dignity, with the health of his patient being his first consideration
  • To maintain by all means his power, the honor and noble traditions of the medical profession
  • Not to permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between his duty and his patient
  • To maintain the utmost respect for human life from time of conception, even under threat

The Minister of Health has been at the helm of the Ministry for a number of years now. During this time, the health system has declined to the point where today, hospitals are turning away patients or have become dens of death.  To make it worse we now hear allegations that some US$7.3 million from the Global Fund meant for HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other communicable diseases has been misappropriated by the Reserve Bank. I know definitely that presiding over a crumbling health delivery system is not in the service of humanity.

The oath exhorts medical doctors not to permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between his duty and his patient. Has the Minister not violated all that? Health in Zimbabwe is now a preserve of the rich. That is permitting social standing to come between the doctor and his patient. ZANU PF and its faithful have worked to amass wealth and power at the expense of the sick. Their direct policies and actions have led to the collapse of the system and the flight enmasse of doctors, nurses and lab scientists. During the recent elections, those wounded and requiring medical attention were denied it on the grounds of suspected party affiliation. Now has the good doctor not allowed party politics to come between him and his patients?

Now given that he has been in ZANU PF for a while, l find l cannot say what his conscience is telling him about the state of hospitals and the many deaths recorded and unrecorded in this country as a result of the collapse of the health system. I am not sure what his conscience has been telling him about the misappropriation of Global Fund money meant for the vulnerable of this country. I’m sure if he had been practicing his profession in good conscience and with dignity, he would have resigned from office before now. The honour and noble traditions of his profession demand no less.

Just for interest sake, is the Minister a member of the World Medical Association? Their website tells me that “Active members or employees of organisations and organisations which undermine the basic human rights with their intentions or in their practical activity cannot be members of the WORLD MEDICAL ASSOCIATION”

One comment to “Hospitals of death”

  1. Comment by Dr Farai Madzimbamuto:

    Thank you very much Catherine for your comments. You are broadly correct in all your commnents and [Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights -ZADHR] have been trying to make those same points.

    ZADHR has also been urging the Zimbabwe Medical Association [ZiMA] to make the similar points and show some responsibility and leadership by acting during this crisis. The World Medical Association – WMA issued a statement and a resolution specifically on the health crisis in Zimbabwe in 2007 !

    [www.wma.net/e/policy/a29.htm : World Medical Association Resolution On Health And Human Rights Abuses In Zimbabwe
    Adopted by the WMA General Assembly, Copenhagen, Denmark, October 2007]

    It is not just the minister, there is also the ministry itself. In addition, it is not just doctors who have ethical and human rights responsibilities. Nurses and all other health professional.

    Thank you for your comments.