Underfunding in the public health sector

Harmony Agere

The Minister of Health and Childcare, Dr David Parirenyatwa, last week lamented underfunding in the public health sector saying this has severely affected health services delivery.Dr Parirenyatwa said this in Parliament after legislators had inquired if his ministry was receiving adequate budget for its operations.

The legislators were concerned that conditions in hospitals are continuing to deteriorate to the detriment of the patients.
“When we do budgets in this august House, normally we prioritise, as Members of Parliament, health delivery and the education sector.

I want to find out whether you are being allocated the monies which you are supposed to be allocated in the ministry,” asked Binga North legislator, Honourable Prince Sibanda.

“What do you prioritise on because now, this is affecting or costing the nation?”
The Minister, however, said the country’s public health sector is receiving only half of its required budget thereby leading to the virtual breakdown of public health services.

This is despite an African Union agreement which stipulates that 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should go to health delivery services.

“I must emphasise again that we are getting from the GDP, an average of 7,5 percent.

The stipulation the world over and what was agreed by Africa at the African Union was that 15 percent of GDP should go to the health delivery system,” he said.

As a result, Government has been failing to provide adequate drugs in hospitals, deploy staff to new clinics and hospitals in rural areas, improve conditions in public hospitals as well as buying new equipment.

On the shortage of nurses, Dr Parirenyatwa said Government could not employ since the vacancies are affected by the policy on the freeze of vacant posts.

Most of the affected institutions are those in rural areas which were constructed with the input from communities in a bid to reduce travelling distances and increase access to health care.

“The shortages arise from the underlined reasons, these posts cannot be filled as they are affected by the policy on the freeze of vacant posts,” he said. “

The Ministry continues to engage the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development over the matter.”

The minister said the drugs shortage is another indication of the lack of funding in the ministry.

“This is a topical issue, in our hospitals, we need further funding to ensure that we have drugs in stock so that when we visit a hospital, some basic medication should be readily available once a prescription has been made by a doctor,” he said.

“We are having challenges in that regard. It is our plea that this august House should be constantly clamouring to ensure that the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s budget has a bigger chunk.”

In the 2016 National Budget, the Ministry of Health and Child Care was allocated about $330 million which translates to 9,7 percent of the country’s $4 billion total budget.

The allocation is against the country’s population of 13,5 million people which means that the Government intends to averagely spend $24 per every individual during the whole year.

Some of the money allocated by the Government also goes towards servicing debts.

This is a small amount when compared to South Africa, which spends an average of $650 per person each year while the

Angolan Governments set aside $200 to cater for each persons’ health care needs last year.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) chairperson, Dr Rutendo Bonde, said Government should prioritise the health sector as it is important, equating it to national security.

“We know that what the Government is getting is shrinking, the cake is getting smaller and smaller but it comes back to priorities,” she said.

“I think as far as the budget is concerned, the Government is not prioritising the needs of the people, people need health.
“We should go back and check on our priorities.

The health of the nation is equally important as the security of the nation.”

Most of the country’s hospitals and clinics do not have enough linen, electronic equipment as well as enough beds to cater for patients.

Government has also repeatedly clashed with doctors over their remuneration while the ratio of doctor to patient has remained high.

Non-governmental organisations have, however, played a huge role in keeping the sector going with unconfirmed reports saying 70 percent of the funds in the health sector are coming from donors.

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