302 days of the COVID-19 Lockdown and as of 24 January 2020, the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported that the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases increased to 31 320 after 313 new cases were reported. All are local cases, of which the highest case tally was recorded in Harare at 157. We note that the hospitalisation rate on the 24th January 2021 went down to 105 hospitalised cases, 91 mild to moderate cases, 9 severe cases and 5 cases in Intensive Care Units. Active cases, went up to 8 065, following 873 recoveries. The total number of recoveries, therefore, went up to 22 250. The recovery rate has gone up to 71%. The death toll has risen to 1 005 after 31 new deaths were recorded.
The 20th day of the 2nd hard lockdown and we continue to note great improvement regarding the Recovery rate which now stands at 71%. We continue to recommend that the Ministry of Health and Child Care disseminates information on best practices for treating COVID-19 symptoms, including publicizing guidelines and the standing position on methods such as steaming “kunatira”, as there appear to be conflicting medical expert opinions circulating regarding this issue.
We note that today, the Ministry of Health and Child Care presented oral evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care on the current COVID-19 situation in the country. We further note that among the issues interrogated, the Ministry highlighted the status of bed capacity throughout the country. We continue to reiterate that bed capacity should also be accompanied by the requisite equipment for managing COVID-19 patients, which include the availability of ventilators and oxygen. The Ministry also highlighted that currently, Zimbabwe has 84 Ventilators for COVID-19.
Critical Emerging Issue
Prohibitive costs of COVID-19 care
While the Ministry of Health and Child Care has presented information on the status of bed capacity, including the assertion that COVID-19 patients are being treated for free at Government Hospitals, which seems to give an impression that the situation is under control, we highlight reports regarding the costs of COVID-19 care. Against a background where public hospitals are barely attending to citizens, where there are alleged reports of citizens with COVID-19 symptoms being turned away from public health institutions, citizens are faced with nothing more than home-based care. We therefore decry the resultant privatisation of COVID-19 related healthcare, as reports show that public health institutions are not adequately equipped to treat and manage COVID-19 patients. As a result, citizens are placed on the path to private hospitals, where exorbitant fees are being charged.
We highlight the example of Harare where private institutions such as Health Point, Arundel, St Anne’s are charging between US$2 000 and US$5 000 depending on the care required. Deposits for care are also being required with doctors in some instances charging US$1 000, prior to other costs being added.
- We call for a stronger approach to develop an integrated healthcare sector where the line between private health care and public healthcare is not as rigid and prohibitive to securing the right to health for citizens.
- We urge policy makers to continue inquiries in this matter and to consider regulation of costs of access to healthcare.
Protecting frontline workers and uninterrupted access to health care services
We are distressed by the news regarding the temporary closure of 2 health centres in Matebelaland North, particularly Lupane Rural Health Centre and Jotsholo Rural Health Centre. The closure comes after 10 staff members at Lupane Rural Health Centre and 1 staff member at Jotsholo rural health centre tested positive for COVID-19. We are therefore concerned about the safety of health workers nationwide. Secondly, we raise concerns regarding access to health care services for communities affected by the temporary closure of the 2 hospitals.
- We, therefore, reiterate the prioritisation of the safety of frontline workers, as this impacts on the country’s level of success and efficiency towards containment of the pandemic.
- We urge provision of adequate PPE and training of all frontline responders regarding the handling of this ever-evolving COVID-19 virus, in order to minimize their risk of exposure.
- We urge the Government to publish data on clinic and hospital closures, including numbers of days closed and the levels of closure as part of critical SGBV data reporting.
- We further recommend putting in place emergency ad hoc measures to ensure that communities in Lupane enjoy uninterrupted access to healthcare services, pending re-opening of the Health facilities.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe