The Sunday Mail
Prosper Ndlovu recently in NIAMEY, Niger
The Government will continue to increase budgetary allocations to the health sector to enhance the provision of quality and affordable healthcare to all citizens as part of the drive towards attaining an upper middle-income economy by 2030, President Mnangagwa has said.
He told journalists on the sidelines of the just-ended African Union (AU) Extraordinary Heads of State and Government Summit on Industrialisation and Economic Transformation in Niamey, Niger, that despite the impact of sanctions, coupled with Covid-19, the Government would double down on transforming the public health system.
Budgetary support tabled by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube in Parliament on Thursday, President Mnangagwa said, buttresses Government’s commitment to deploy domestic resources towards upgrading the health sector.
Treasury proposed allocating about 11 percent of the $4,5 trillion budget for 2023 towards the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
There are plans to progressively increase disbursements to 15 percent of the total annual outlay in line with the Abuja Declaration.
“The health sector back home has suffered, particularly as a result of sanctions. We have had two decades of sanctions and our health coverage had gone down,” he said.
“Now, the attack which came to Zimbabwe and the rest of the world through Covid-19 has given us the awakening bell to say ‘please, wake up, you will never know when the next pandemic is coming, prepare yourself’.
“So, we are now focusing on making sure that our health sector is attended to.
“If you look at the Budget, we have upped drastically our investment into the health sector because we feel that when the Covid-19 came about, Zimbabwe was isolated.
“We never received any significant amounts from outside; we had to depend on our own domestic resources. We diverted funds from other projects to make sure we protected our people, and, at the end of the day, Zimbabwe did actually very well in the region and perhaps on the whole continent in terms of mitigating the impact of Covid-19. We are not going to stop at that.”
The President, who returned home yesterday morning, said the Government was determined to adopt all necessary measures to ensure the country’s health system was adequately capacitated to deal with potential future pandemics and maintaining quality service standards.
“We are not going to stop there; we are making sure that we are going to do anything possible to prepare for any pandemic that may come,” he added.
“But, also, it’s good to have our people have the best health service system.”
In his 2023 Budget presentation last week, Prof Ncube said Government was committed to improving healthcare services, as evidenced by the ongoing construction and rehabilitation of health facilities.
Among the notable projects are the Lupane Provincial Hospital; health posts in Mutasa, Mashayamvura, Gokwe North and Centenary district; 30 polyclinics; and five district hospitals.
Over and above staff welfare spending, the minister said funds will be channelled towards the provision of adequate medical equipment and sundries for public hospitals, with $43 billion allocated for the exercise.
Government also plans to procure 100 ambulances, 32 of which have already been bought and distributed countrywide.
Treasury further set aside $2 billion for the procurement of ambulances, utility vehicles and other essential medical equipment, while $33 billion will go towards the rehabilitation and construction of hospitals and clinics.
In addition, $1,1 billion will be used to establish a stand-alone research and teaching hospital.
Government has also guaranteed the stable supply of life-saving drugs for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria comorbidities; completion of the Harare National Pharmaceutical Warehouse; and procurement of magnetic resonance imaging equipment, as well as ambulances and service vehicles.
Minister Ncube, however, noted challenges related to high staff turnover in the sector, which has an overall vacancy rate of 13 percent, which is more pronounced among the specialist doctors’ categories.
“The high turnover of health personnel is compromising the provision of health services in the public sector,” he said.
“Government is, however, addressing this challenge through continuous review of both monetary and non-monetary incentives in order to attract and retain medical personnel.”
On non-monetary benefits, he said Government has set aside resources towards the construction of institutional accommodation at various health centres and procurement of staff buses and operational vehicles.
“Currently, Government and banks are working on a Vehicle Guarantee Fund to ensure sustainability and wider access to vehicle loans at concessionary terms for health workers,” he said.
“Government has also approved a housing guarantee fund to enable health workers have easier access to affordable loans from banks. Since inception, 637 staff members have benefitted from the scheme.
“Furthermore, members are benefitting from the vehicle duty-free dispensation to import personal vehicles using free funds.”