A major public health scare looms in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, amid revelations municipal health facilities are on the verge of collapse following a massive staff exodus over the past year.
The bulk of the clinics run by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) clinics are currently operating at 50% nursing staffing capacity after the other half left due to poor salaries.
This comes as the local authority is battling service delivery challenges and failing to pay its entire workforce on time.
The city council blames the Covid-19 pandemic of financially impacting on its operations, as ratepayers did not settle their bills in 2020 due to lockdown restrictions.
In an online discussion organised by the IAM4BYO Initiative and held Monday under the title: “The State of Health Institutions in Bulawayo: A Provincial Perspective,” BCC health services director Edwin Sibanda painted a gloomy picture on staffing levels as he confirmed an exodus of medical personnel.
“We have about 19 clinics dotted around the city of Bulawayo and they are running at almost forty-five to fifty-five staffing levels,” he said.
“The city has been struggling with constant tendering in of resignation letters. Since January, we have been receiving no less than four resignations a month. In terms of admission levels, we are fine, but the greatest constraint is the fact that our clinics do not have enough staff.”
Welcome Mlilo, the acting provincial medical director for Bulawayo said: “The shortage of health personnel is a trend right across the country not only limited to Bulawayo. We have seen an alarming number of resignations.”
According to the local authority, only 16% Bulawayo ratepayers fully paid their bills in 2020 while 22% did not make any payments the who year resulting in ratepayers owning BCC nearly $663 million.
Government departments also owe council several millions of dollars, deepening the council’s financial woes, which is likely to be worsened by a recent hike in tariffs, and a development that will see a high number of defaulters.
BCC increased its rates by 372% after its supplementary budget was approved by Local Government Minister July Moyo.
Earlier this year, the local authority was forced to seek a supplementary budget after the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic saw the council incurring unbudgeted expenses.
Moyo has also approved the council’s 2021 budget, which will see rates and service charges going up by a further 10%.