'Dire shortage' of equipment to fight coronavirus in Zimbabwe

Medics accuse the government of failing to put in place measures to protect health practitioners across the country.

Medics in Zimbabwe have warned there is a “dire shortage” of ventilators, oxygen tanks, biohazard suits and N95 face masks for healthcare professionals fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights complained about inadequate screening of people for coronavirus symptoms across the country.


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The doctors have also raised concerns over the scarcity of quarantine and isolation facilities, which they say are only found in the capital Harare and the country’s second-largest city, Bulawayo.

On Sunday, a lawsuit was filed by the doctors in court to compel the government to step up coronavirus protection for public hospitals and healthcare workers.

The application filed at the High Court said the government failed to set in place “measures to ensure that health practitioners across the country, who include nurses, nurse aides and pharmacists among others, are adequately protected”.

A hearing date is yet to be set. 

Last month, doctors and nurses staged a walkout in protest over the lack of protective clothing to care for coronavirus patients.

Zimbabwe has recorded 10 cases of infection, including one death. The country has only one COVID-19 test centre, situated at a government hospital in Harare.

The outbreak of coronavirus has deepened the country’s public healthcare crisis.

Medicines are in short supply and depleted state coffers mean that the government is unable to purchase sufficient supplies for state-run medical facilities. Access to running water is also a major problem.

Doctors and nurses launched a strike last year demanding better wages. Medical practitioners want their salaries indexed in United States dollars to keep pace with inflation as the Zimbabwe dollar continues to lose value.

Doctors only resumed work this January after Zimbabwean telecommunications billionaire Strive Masiyiwa offered to pay the salaries of the country’s 2,000 doctors for three months in the local currency if they returned to their duties.

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