Vivian Mugarisi, Harare Bureau
PUBLIC and private hospitals should not turn away patients or demand a Covid-19 certificate first before admitting patients, particularly in emergency cases, Government has said.

The latest exhortation comes after the country has gone through its worst month yet, as 61 Zimbabweans succumbed to the coronavirus in July alone. Acting Health and Child Care Minister Professor Amon Murwira said Government is engaging hospitals to ensure that they provide other life-saving services to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

“Other things that may happen or mis-happen are the things that we want to hear and rectify. What we want to do is to ensure that we revamp our health system, invest in it and ensure that every citizen has access to health services as enshrined in our Constitution.

“This disease (Covid-19) does not spare anyone, but we have to ensure there is continuity in terms of service provision otherwise we may regress and lose lives unnecessarily. Hospitals should continue offering services and desist from making unreasonable demands at the expense of lives. We all have to be responsible at some point,” said Prof Murwira.

Scores of people are failing to access health care as health institutions, including both private and public health institutions, are insisting on Covid-19 certificates before admitting patients, even in emergency cases.

However, the certificate can only be issued after a polymerase chain reaction (PCR test), which is going between US$65 to US$80 at various private institutions, although the test is free at some public hospitals.

There are fears inordinate delays in admitting patients could lead to the unnecessary loss of life.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals public relations officer Mr Linos Dhire said the institution has been struggling to provide services due to the ongoing industrial action by health workers.

“The strike by both nurses and doctors has greatly affected the delivery of our services across the hospital. The situation has been worsened by the fact that some among the few who have been reporting for duty are testing positive for Covid-19 and have to go in isolation. Fellow healthcare workers who are their contacts have to go off duty and isolate and this has significantly contributed to low numbers on the ground. Consequently, the hospital has been forced to respond to dire emergencies only,” he added.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Mr Enock Dongo said nurses were waiting for Government to make a tangible offer to review their conditions of services before they consider going back to work.

“Since we started the industrial action, we haven’t had any meaningful discussion with Government insofar as our demands are concerned. Yes, the Government provided a platform for negotiation but they didn’t bring any offer on the table. They only said our demand of salaries in USD was not feasible,” said Mr Dongo.

Health Services Board chairperson Dr Paulinus Sikhosana, however, said negotiations with the health workers will continue with the hope of reaching an agreement soon.

“Negotiations are continuing; they never stopped . . . we need to reach an amicable solution soon,” said Dr Sikhosana.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week implored health workers to commit to serving the nation while Government acts on their grievances.

“We must stop the scourge of Covid-19, itself a global pandemic. It spares no one, great or small. All nations of the world are suffering from its impact, with figures of infections and deaths rising daily. In unity and through discipline, we stand a chance to save our nation from its menace,” said the President.

“I call on our medical staff to act in the national interest and exhibit a great sense of responsibility. My Government hears your cries, listens to your concerns. But the time to serve is now. Your grievances, which we acknowledge and continue to address, cannot be enjoyed at the expense of loss of life. When the pandemic spreads and the death toll rises, there are no winners, none at all. Tinopera tese kufa,” he said.