Health sector shows significant progress since independence The state-of-the-art health centre at Stoneridge in Harare is already operational and offering outpatient, maternity, ART and inpatient facilities

Rumbidzai Zinyuke

Health Buzz

After the attainment of independence in 1980, the Government had a huge task ahead of it to address many of the inequalities that had been created by colonial rule.

One of these was prioritising fixing healthcare inequalities that existed, ensuring that every Zimbabwean could access health services.

Under white minority rule, Andrew Fleming Hospital (now Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals) served only the white population. 

It was the best-equipped facility, while the black majority relied on Harare Central Hospital (now Sally Mugabe Central Hospital), which used to receive outdated equipment and medications considered surplus by Andrew Fleming.

But the coming of independence in 1980 marked a turning point. The new Government took steps to ensure all Zimbabweans, regardless of race, had access to quality healthcare.

Since then, the country has made substantial strides in improving its healthcare system. The country has witnessed remarkable progress across various sectors, including infrastructure development, increased access to healthcare services, expansion of medical personnel and advancements in medical research and technology.

Not only did Parirenyatwa begin serving the black community, Harare Hospital began receiving better equipment and more stocks and the burden of serving a high number of people was alleviated as others could now visit Parirenyatwa.

Cowdray Park health centre has since opened its door to the public

One of the major achievements in Zimbabwe’s healthcare system since independence has been the development and expansion of medical infrastructure. 

The Government has focused on constructing and upgrading healthcare facilities in both urban and rural areas, ensuring that healthcare services are accessible to all citizens. 

Notably, the number of hospitals, clinics and health centres has significantly increased, resulting in more than 65 provincial and district hospitals opening their doors to the public.

Zimbabwe’s healthcare sector has not been without challenges, including periodic funding shortages, brain drain and the impact of economic fluctuations. However, the Government, in collaboration with developmental partners, has continuously endeavoured to overcome these obstacles, focusing on improving healthcare for all citizens.

Since 2018, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has made significant strides in the development of health infrastructure, and more than 50 health facilities were constructed and completed. 

Nearly a 100 others were renovated, while solar systems were installed at 1 074 health facilities, and more than 400 health facilities benefited from borehole sinking projects.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the challenges that already existed in the healthcare system, particularly in access to health services for underserved communities, Government made efforts to address the challenges and ensure universal access to health care.

Under its devolution programme, local authorities across the country were afforded an opportunity to boost health service delivery, particularly in rural areas where millions of Zimbabweans had been left out due to lack of facilities.

More than 1000 health facilities have been equipped with solar systems

Most local authorities channelled a significant chunk of those funds towards health service delivery, a development which saw clinics being built upgraded and equipped in all provinces, to offer better health care to the population.

The Government has also invested an estimated US$210 million to provide quality healthcare to Zimbabweans, in a project that is set to see the construction of four by 20-bed and 26 by 20-bed health centres as well as five by 60-bed district hospitals.

Under this project, state-of-the-art health centres at Stoneridge in Harare, Cowdray Park in Bulawayo and Mataga in Mberengwa are already operational and offering outpatient, maternity, ART and inpatient facilities as well as staff quarters. 

Another facility in Chimanimani is almost complete.

While the health service has been affected by skills flight over the past years, Government has been making significant efforts to increase the number of medical professionals and improve their training and skills. 

This is witnessed by the establishment of medical schools, nursing colleges and other healthcare training institutions, which have played a vital role in uplifting the country’s healthcare sector. 

Government has also implemented various measures to attract and retain healthcare professionals by offering non-monetary incentives and benefits.

Emphasising preventive healthcare, Zimbabwe has implemented effective disease control programmes. 

This includes vaccination campaigns, targeted initiatives to combat prevalent diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Through these interventions, the country has successfully reduced the incidence of several infectious diseases and achieved a significant improvement in public health.

Mataga health centre

Advancements in medical research and technology have also contributed to the remarkable progress in Zimbabwe’s health sector.

The country has collaborated with international partners and institutions to conduct research on various diseases, leading to the development of new treatment protocols. 

The adoption of modern medical technologies has enhanced diagnosis, treatment and patient care, significantly improving medical outcomes.

Government successfully rolled out the Impilo electronic health system (EHR) across the country which has since gained momentum on the back of the installation of solar systems in health facilities to provide constant connectivity for digital health solutions.

This was done with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Fund to install solar systems at more than 1 000 health centres to ensure all facilities have power back up.

The EHR is a data collection and management system which seeks to improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery and reduce errors, particularly in areas where paper records are still in use.

The system allows for the collection, analysis and dissemination of health data, which can help to identify health trends, track diseases outbreaks and inform healthcare policy. 

As Zimbabwe celebrates its 44th independence anniversary, the strides made in the country’s health sector stand as a testament to its commitment to ensuring the well-being of its citizens. 

The Government’s continued efforts and partnerships with international allies are crucial in sustaining and further enhancing the gains achieved, ultimately striving towards a healthier, prosperous nation. 

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