January 2016 NewZimbabwe; Morale has slumped in the health sector after government announced the end of health workers’ supplementary payments, putting the lives of many patients at risk.
The development comes at a time when the government has failed to pay nurses and scrapped a host of allowances and at the same time introduced a 7.5 percent employee contribution pension scheme for all civil servants.
The health retention supplementary payment was from the donor funded Health Transition Fund (HTF) that was introduced during the time of the inclusive government in 2011. The fund helped to reduce child mortality as the state scrapped maternity user fee in all state hospitals.
The additional payments also helped to retain skilled health workers by raising their low wages and to hire additional staff. HTF also helped to revitalise the country’s ‘haemorrhaging’ health sector. Night allowances for nurses were between $50 and $70.
In a circular sent to various health institutions around the country signed by the ministry of health and child care permanent secretary, Dr Gerald Gwinji reads:
“Please be advised that support to the human resources for Health (HRH) component under the Health Transitional Fund (HTF) and managed by my office ends on the 31st of December 2015.
“Payments for the fourth quarter under HTF will be made during the first quarter of 2016. “A lot of lessons have been learned during the five years of the HTF support to human resources for health, particularly health worker retention.
“Kindly note that the Health Services Board will have oversight on issues relating to Human Resources for Health, especially health retention under Development Fund.”
Health institutions were also advised to inform all their staff members. Over the years, donors raised $158 million and, through the fund, 2 500 midwives were trained while the number of doctors at district hospitals was increased.
The fund has been a source of discord within the ministry of health with some senior officials reportedly dipping into it. At one time, midwives went on strike after it emerged that some directors were pocketing around $1, 300 monthly from the fund while nurses were not getting anything.