Doctors, nurses turn mercenary

SOME public health workers, who include doctors and nurses, have reportedly devised a well-knit scam to milk cash from desperate patients to supplement their meagre salaries.

Those involved allegedly give preferential treatment and attention to patients who pay staff on duty hard cash, while those who do not pay them were neglected.

Information at hand suggests that nurses and doctors as well as pharmacy and general staff at public hospitals and clinics were also supplying stolen drugs, usually at cheap prices.

Nurses and doctors who spoke to NewsDay confirmed the growing culture of cashing in on desperate patients.

“It can take you hours to be attended by a doctor, if at all you see one and the reality is that the bulk of our citizens don’t have the medical aid or US$40 to see a private doctor,” said a medical doctor based at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

“To get attention quickly, you pay US$10 or so, then you are examined and get your prescription. If you don’t pay you will wait and perhaps only get an appointment to see a doctor six months from that day.”

An official at Parirenyatwa said he gets numerous calls from relatives, friends and their colleagues for assistance. “They offer money or just ask for help to expedite their treatment process,” the official said.

Sincere Shamu, from the public relations department at Parirenyatwa Hospital confirmed receipt of the NewsDay inquiries and promised to respond. There was, however, no response when NewsDay made a follow up last night.

Doctors at public hospitals are said to be in the habit of using public hospitals to further their personal business, referring the bulk of patients to specialists where they have interests.

“Doctors use nurses to advise patients of alternative facilities nearby and we will tell you to go for a scan and sometimes recommend certain places and when you go there with the proof we are paid at least US$5 per patient. This happens with private doctors as well,” said a nurse at Sally Mugabe Hospital (formerly Harare Hospital).

Responding to questions from NewsDay yesterday Zimbabwe Professional Nurses Union president Robert Chiduku said there was no excuse for such crooked behaviour.

“I can only attribute that to lack of honesty and integrity. There is no justification for fraudulent activity, no matter the situation, so it is attributable to an individual’s crookedness,” Chiduku said.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) leader Enock Dongo, however, denied the allegations against his members and doctors, saying staff and equipment shortages caused long queues and service delays at public hospitals.

“There is a brain drain and you will find hundreds of patients waiting to be served by two or three nurses and because there is no equipment the nurses might be sharing one thermometer and they spend three minutes or more per patient just for the temperature check,” Dongo said.

The Zina leader, however, added: “It is not true in the sense that doctors and nurses are dealing with poor people, where will they find money to pay bribes? There might be a few bad apples, but I must say that there is something terribly wrong when these doctors and nurses who are professionals accept US$2 as a bribe. The government must pay health workers well so that they are not lured by US$2,

When reached for comment, the Health Services Board chairperson Paulinus Sikhosana said: “I am a bit busy now. Can you call me later?.” Sikosana said he was not sure when he would be free to attend to the questions on email or text.

Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro and permanent secretary Jasper Chimedza did not respond to questions sent to them.

Health workers and other civil servants are demanding over US$540 salaries citing a free falling local currency in the face of skyrocketing prices of basic goods and services. Newsday

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