The head of Zimbabwe's Health Services Board says health workers should be exempted from a state hiring freeze to improve public health service delivery, this at a time when outbreaks of typhoid are spreading from Harare to other parts of the country.
Health Services Board Chairman Dr. Lovemore Mbengeranwa told Parliament's committee on health that health care institutions are severely understaffed.
He said the Health Ministry’s staff complement of 24,000 health professionals is far below World Health Organization minimum standards.
For the ministry to function effectively, it needs 47,000 workers, of whom 31 000 must be professionals such as doctors nurses and pharmacists, Dr. Mbengeranwa said.
He said many vacancies for such experts cannot be filled because of the hiring freeze.
Dr. Mbengeranwa said it is unfortunate that the country is spending considerable sums to train health personnel which it cannot employ, who often then emigrate. He said it costs $99,000 to train a doctor and $27,000 to train a nurse annually.
Zimbabwe has more than 1,500 trained nurses who cannot be employed due the government freeze on recruitment.
Though there has been discussion of placing nurses in jobs outside Zimbabwe. Dr. Mbengeranwa said a stakeholders meeting would be held soon to discuss the matter. He said any such job placements should consider Zimbabwean training costs.
He said his board is making efforts to match regional salaries for health professionals but cannot do so at the moment.
The health services chief said the population has increased greatly and diseases such as HIV call for more health facilities and personnel.
Meanwhile, the number of cases of typhoid reported in the capital and other parts of the country has risen to 3,074, according to Dr. Portia Manangazira, director of Epidemiology and Disease Control for the Ministry of Health.
Dr. Manangazira said typhoid is now a national concern with 34 cases reported lately in Bindura, Mashonaland Central, and rising tallies in the Harare satellite town of Chitungwiza and in Zvimba, Mashonaland West province.
She said local authorities receive daily updates from areas where outbreaks have occurred then compile weekly updates for national release.