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Zimbabwe Nurses Continue to Cash Out

FILE: Senior nurse Virginia Mutsamwira, 52, supplements her modest nursing income by selling groceries and small animals for meals. She says she is joining the exodus of nurses and other healthcare workers from Zimbabe to ensure her retirement. Photo taken April 25, 2022.

Local media reports say more than 2,000 nurses left Zimbabwe in 2021 to pursue better jobs and lives. Critics and experts worry that the migration trend has not slowed. For VOA, Kudzayi Zvinavashe reports from Harare.

This African nation's healthcare sector, according to many within it, suffers from low wages and high rates of job burnout. And that's prompting thousands of nurses and others to leave the field, or for some, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association Secretary-General Enock Dongo says these exits are making things even tougher for the nurses and others who keep working.

"Those still around in the service, there is a lot of burnout and there is a lack of mentorship, there is a lack of practical experience," Dongo says, "because we have seen that a lot of senior nurses, well-experienced nurses have gone outside looking for greener pastures."

Dongo adds that the departures and weariness of health workers is also hitting the public. "Whenever they are approaching public hospitals right now, their first port of call are nurses," he says. "They find a demotivated nurse, a burnout nurse, a nurse who doesn’t have a zeal and morale to provide services, and a nurse who is already tired psychologically, mentally, physically and financially."

Dongo says the government must move quickly to address the welfare of nurses, who he says are the least paid in the region.

Dr Paulinus Sikhosana, heads the Health Services Board, which is in charge of the employment and welfare of healthcare workers, says nurses' already modest pay has shrunk notably in recent time.

"We generally have a problem currently with hyperinflation; our economy is not performing as expected," Sikhosana said. "Within this context, you will be aware that in the past year and the year before the government has been attempting the cost of living adjustment. There has been an adjustment for this year, the government has been exploring means beyond monetary benefits that can motivate our healthcare workers."

The Health Services Board chief says vehicle loans, accommodation and transport for workers are among the incentives under consideration for healthcare workers. In a bid to keep public health institutions running, he says they have been recruiting other healthcare workers to fill the gap, which includes targeting ythose who have retired from the field.