MPILO Central Hospital is facing an acute shortage of senior doctors that include specialists, a situation that threatens the operations of the southern region’s biggest referral hospital.
The health institution is dependent on junior doctors to carry out most surgical operations thereby compromising healthcare standards.
Apart from serving Bulawayo, Mpilo is a referral hospital for Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South provinces.
The hospital’s clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said Mpilo Central Hospital which has an establishment of 60 senior doctors, was operating with only 15.
“It’s a miracle how junior doctors have managed to cope under these abnormalities and still save many lives. If we are to say they must not do surgical operations and other medical procedures, this hospital will close,” says Dr Ngwenya.
He said due to shortage of specialists, the hospital was referring three or more critically ill patients to Harare every week and this was very discouraging.
“It pains to sign off patients who have to be hurried to Harare because we don’t have specialists at Mpilo Central Hospital,” said Dr Ngwenya
He said junior doctors’ hard work and sacrifice has enabled the hospital to continue serving the thousands patients from Bulawayo and other provinces.
“Junior doctors are being overworked but despite the pressure, they have managed to save many lives. We regret the few cases when lives were lost due to shortage of specialists,” said Dr Ngwenya.
He said there was an urgent need to come up with a package to attract doctors to Bulawayo.
“We have trained some of the specialists but for various reasons they leave for Harare soon after training to work there,” said Dr Ngwenya.
He said most people could not afford to travel to Harare or pay for healthcare services offered there.
“We wish to provide quality healthcare for our citizens despite the economic challenges facing the country. Most people cannot afford expenses associated with travelling to Harare.”
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Gerald Gwinji said the Government was training more doctors to improve the situation.
“You need to understand that sometime in 2007 we had no doctors in the country. It takes about four years to turn a junior doctor into a mature specialist in addition to the seven years needed for one to become a junior doctor,” he said.
Dr Gwinji said the shortage of specialists was not only affecting Mpilo but all public health institutions throughout the country.
“We have to understand that we have a shortage of doctors countrywide and we have ensured that each district hospital has at least two doctors. We hope to increase the number to four soon,” said Dr Gwinji. Botched operations which are blamed largely on the shortage of specialists at Mpilo Central Hospital, have resulted in the deaths of many patients.
Recently, a Bulawayo magistrate, Tinashe Tashaya, presided over an inquest case where he ruled that a patient, Darlington Mangwiro, had died as a result of negligence when a minor operation was done on his nose at the hospital. Tashaya ordered the office of the Prosecutor-General to investigate why junior doctors attended the late Mangwiro without the supervision of senior doctors.
“I have no doubt there was some negligence on the part of the medical team that attended to the now deceased. This is the reason why the surgeon has failed to provide a detailed report on what transpired on that day up to date,” said Tashaya.