Should Zimbabweans want to play the blame game it might be worthwhile selecting the right target

Yesterday, inspired by a group of activists working to generate awareness around the current nurses strike in Zimbabwe, I drove down to Parirenyatwa Hospital. This was one of the locations where activists had placed a card board box into which members of the public could deliver a handwritten letter to the person responsible for dismissing striking nurses.

That would be Vice President Chiwenga.

I drove into the hospital grounds and parked at the main entrance. A car had pulled up close to the hospital’s main doors and a family was trying to get an elderly relative out of the front seat of their car. They were having a hard time.

I couldn’t find the pop-up post box so I went to both the doctors entrance as well as the casualty department. I still couldn’t find the post box.

But wandering around the hospital grounds gave me a chance to remember Parirenyatwa in days gone by. As a kid I’d been taken to the casualty department to have massive blood blisters on my feet syringed. And I remembered visiting my aunt after she’d had a brain tumour removed.

Many years ago if you got sick, either in an emergency or for something else, your first port of call was Pari. Not some private clinic and certainly not one of the numerous Emergency Trauma Centres that have sprung up to mitigate the failure of the public health system.

Pari and its dedicated staff are trying, against enormous odds, to continue to help Zimbabweans access affordable health care. Our medical brothers and sisters work under difficult circumstances. The hospital infrastructure is failing, medicine is hard to come by, clean water is unreliable, salaries are low, and are often paid in arrears.

This is the backdrop to why both doctors and nurses have been on strike in Zimbabwe.

Nurses, often being women, have a double burden to bear. With Zimbabwe being so patriarchal, our nurses work a full day at their respective health care facilities, and then they go home and are responsible for many of the household and child management chores.

Additionally, Chiwenga, with this action directed specifically at nurses, has very clearly demonstrated his contempt for women. He chose to tread much more gently when Zimbabwe’s doctors, the majority who are men, engaged industrial action. Don’t get me wrong – I believe that both nurses and doctors are critical actors within our health care system. I just wish VP Chiwenga thought so too.

It is unkind, disrespectful and shameful to expect that our nurses continue to work for little pay and under hostile conditions. It is also unacceptable that we remove their right to strike based upon their choice of career. Just because they are nurses doesn’t mean that they should be our unpaid servants.

Zimbabwe fought for Independence to win dignity and equality for everyone – nurses included.

Should Zimbabweans want to play the blame game it might be worthwhile selecting the right target. In this instance it is not the nurses, it is the government. Because this government has systematically withdrawn their support, in all forms, from our public health system.

Source: Bev Clark

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