The country’s health system has reached alarming levels as major referral hospitals have reached their lowest rate of service delivery.

During a tour of Harare Central Hospital on Wednesday, NewsDay observed that some wards were closed as there were no patients, with the health institution reportedly only admitting serious and urgent cases.

In one of the wards, only five out of 28 beds were occupied, proving the dire situation at hand.

Health minister Obadiah Moyo blamed the worrisome sight to the ongoing and prolonged strike by doctors who are demanding favourable working conditions, before resuming work.

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Speaking during the tour, Moyo pleaded with the striking doctors to return to work while a permanent solution was being mapped out.

“What we are seeing today is the effect of withdrawal of labour by doctors, leaving the hospitals to accommodate critical cases. We are not at the optimum regarding the return of doctors, that’s why I keep calling for their return,” he said.

“It is best to be able to work while we negotiate. We are encouraging our doctors to come to work as we negotiate. We will follow the law to the last detail. We shall make sure that we are guided by the law.”

Added Moyo: “I want to encourage the doctors to return to work. NatPharm keeps replenishing drugs in the hospitals, though we are currently having problems with stocking chronic illness drugs as an order has been placed for the restocking. We want people to return to work and see a fully-stocked work station.”

He urged the doctors to steer clear of political influence as they committed themselves to saving lives.

“We don’t want political influences in our professional sphere. We are here to save lives, not to end up doing things that we were not trained for,” he said.

The Labour Court last week declared the strike by doctors as illegal and ordered the health practitioners to return to work within 48 hours, but the doctors refused to budge, citing incapacitation.