Zambia nurses leave home, create crisis in health sector

The health sector has a human resource crisis, Ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr Simon Miti has admitted.

Commenting on concerns raised by Luangeni UNIP member of parliament Besnart Jere that her constituency had a critical shortage of health staff, Dr Miti said the human resource situation in the health sector, especially in the rural areas, was pathetic.

He pointed to brain drain, HIV/AIDS and the government's failure to employ graduating nurses due to the HIPC initiative conditionalities as the main causes of the staff shortage.

Dr Miti also cited the lack of staff establishments at the Ministry of Heath and the Central Board of Health (CBoH).

"When the Ministry of Health was restructured, about K400 billion was required to put all the workers under CBoH but that money was not found and these workers are still in suspense as to where they belong," Dr Miti explained.

He said according to the new ministry establishment, there were 97 staff at ministry headquarters and between 240 and 280 under CBoH.

He said before restructuring, there had been about 26,000 people under the ministry.

Dr Miti said according to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank staff-monitoring programme condition under Medium Term Expenditure Framework, the ministry needed to have a establishment if it was to employ newly qualified personnel.

"Government through cabinet approved an interim structure so that it could employ some nurses in the interim, but this approval has no legality since it is only Parliament that can approve," Dr Miti said.

"It's been very frustrating for us. Like next month, we shall be graduating some nurses only to let them leave the country for greener pastures and yet in Luangeni there are no nurses."

He observed that most clinics had a lot of medicines but they were being administered by unqualified personnel.

"The lives of the people are put to a serious risk. That's why we have so many deaths, later on people start crying for an extension of a local mortuary," observed Dr Miti.

He hoped that the National Health Service (NHS) bill once enacted into law would help the government to provide quality services and employ qualified personnel.

Dr Miti hoped that the bill would be tabled before Parliament during next month's sitting.

He said over 29,000 nurses would be employed once the NHS bill came into effect and he hoped that the move would reduce maternal mortality rates and the impact of malaria in rural areas.

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