Mission hospitals overwhelmed

25 Nov, 2019 - 00:11 0 Views
Mission hospitals overwhelmed This picture collage shows a male patient lying on the floor in a ward at Karanda Mission Hospital due to the shortage of beds, while women keep themselves warm with blankets on a shop verandah as the hospital grapples to cope with the surge in demand for its services as a result of the strike by doctors in Government hospitals. — Pictures: Tawanda Mudimu

The Herald

Daniel Nemukuyu and Freedom Mupanedemo
Desperate patients, failing to get help at State hospitals due to the strike by some Government doctors, are flocking to mission hospitals, with Karanda Hospital in Mt Darwin now seeing up to 500 patients daily over the past three months.

The figure rose from between 150 and 200 patients per day since August when Government doctors went on strike over pay, benefits and lack of equipment and medicines.

Worst-affected are referral hospitals in Harare and Bulawayo, where the doctors are concentrated.

Karanda Mission Hospital was established by the Evangelical Church in Zimbabwe, but operates under The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), an interdenominational church group founded in the Scandanavia in 1890, but now spread around the world.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe’s Mnene Mission Hospital in Mberengwa, Midlands Province, is another centre also overstretched, attending to many patients coming from other provinces.

Apart from the doctors’ strike, mission hospitals are now overwhelmed by patients coming from all over Zimbabwe for assistance after failing to pay private specialists in urban areas who are charging high fees.

For example, private specialists in Harare are charging US$1 000 ($16 100 using the interbank rate) for orthopaedic surgery when Karanda Hospital only requires $3 000.

Apart from Karanda, hospitals like Howard in Chiweshe, All Souls Mission in Mutoko and St Alberts Mission in Centenary have recorded significant increases in the number of patients visiting them for assistance since August this year.

Mission hospitals are non-profit institutions and they charge modest fees that are affordable.

Their staff do not participate in strikes or any other labour actions.

Karanda, a community hospital designed to cater for Mt Darwin district in the small catchment area, is now serving the whole country, with patients coming from as far as Kariba, Victoria Falls, Chipinge, Mutoko and Harare.

Crowding is unavoidable, with several admitted patients being found lying on floors due to the shortage of beds.

The influx of patients has exerted pressure on the four available specialists — two missionary and two national surgeons.

They are assisted by a clinical officer.

Designed with facilities to cope with a maximum of 150 hospitalised patients, the hospital has been stretched to accommodate close to 300 patients at any one time, including those on floor beds.

Some patients with non-urgent medical conditions now have to wait, sometimes for months, before receiving treatment.

But urgent cases do see the doctors, do receive treatment and are admitted, if only to a mattress or stretcher on the floor.

“Out of the hundreds of patients coming here daily, the first few are attended to while the others will have to look for alternative accommodation until the day they meet the doctor,” said a source.

“Those who require surgery may wait for months before being operated on due to the backlog.”

The Herald toured the wards on Wednesday evening only to find several admitted patients lying on the floor, with the lucky ones enjoying the comfort of mattresses on the floor.

The male ward, with a carrying capacity of 38 patients, had an extra 32 patients who were lying on the floor.

Some had to spend the night on stretcher beds.

One of the nurses said: “We have no option but to admit all of them. We cannot turn a blind eye to the seriousness of their conditions.”

In the female ward, the situation was the same, with an excess of 35 patients who were lying on the floor.

The hospital’s laboratory has also been overwhelmed with work as most samples are now being taken to external laboratories for testing.

Investigations by The Herald revealed that patients, who used to get all drugs for free, are now getting part free and a prescription to get the rest from pharmacies.

“Instead of giving patients a month’s supply of drugs, Karanda Hospital now provides part of the supplies, to ensure the spreading of resources to all in the spirit of sharing,” a source said.

Mrs Barbra Munganduri from Huyuyu Village in Mutoko said the hospital was doing its best to serve the nation.

“In our province, we have several hospitals at Mutoko, Kotwa, Murewa and Marondera, but doctors there are not working,” she said. “I had no option but to come here after hearing from others that they offer quality and cheaper services.

“I am happy with service so far. I arrived today in the morning and managed to have my card stamped.

“I now wait to meet the doctor tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

“So far I am happy with the service. The staff is hospitable and they treat us with respect,” she said.

Mrs Munganduri said she spent $400 on transport from Mutoko, as she boarded four buses to reach Karanda.

Mrs Olivia Muchemwa, who came from Mbare in Harare, urged striking doctors to go back to work, saying the people had suffered enough.

“I have chest pains and X-rays were taken at Parirenyatwa in Harare, but no specialists were available to assist me there,” she said. “Specialists in private practice are charging in foreign currency and I do not have such kind of money.

“I urge the striking doctors and the Government to reach a consensus and end the industrial action that has paralysed the public health facilities.”

At night, patients waiting to see the doctor for the first time, have to sleep on the verandahs of some shops at Karanda Shopping Centre, a stone’s throw from the hospital gate.

The Herald managed to follow a number of women who had to put up outside Dokwani Eating House.

Men were sleeping on the verandah of Guruve Drive Inn and Vagora Bottle Store at the shopping centre.

Some patients spent the night in their cars right at the hospital’s main gate.

Mnene Mission Hospital is also being overwhelmed by the soaring numbers of patients, some from outside the Midlands, seeking medical attention.

The 217-bed hospital run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe is said to be operating with just one   doctor.

ELCZ Hospitals advocate Pastor Patricia Shirichena said Mnene Mission Hospital recorded a surge in the number of patients following the strike by doctors in Government hospitals.

“We only have one doctor here, Dr Nyasha Makura, and he is being overwhelmed by patients some of whom are coming from as far as Gokwe and Gwanda in Matabeleland South,” she said.

“The patients tell us that they are not getting assistance from hospitals in their areas because of the strike.

“Imagine, all our 217 beds are fully occupied and it is just overwhelming.” Salvation Army-run Howard Mission Hospital in Chiweshe has recorded a significant rise in the number of patients in the past three months, also attributed to the doctors’ strike.

Howard has no specialist surgeon, but a number of people are coming from Harare daily where most council clinics are not functional.

Every morning, a bus brings patients to Howard and pressure eases around midday.

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