By Makhosi Sibanda
THE Bulawayo City Council says it is struggling to cope with the demand for maternity health care services owing to an employment freeze policy by the Government which has seen the local authority leasing out some of its clinics to private players.
Responding to concerns by women from across the city during a recent Women’s Indaba in the city, BCC’s gender focal person Mrs Audrey Mangemwe said if there is change of policy, the city council will increase its capacity on health care service delivery through recruiting more nurses for its clinics.
“BCC has not been spared by the biting financial squeeze and will employ more people soon as the situation turns for the better,” said Mrs Mangemwe.
Clinics in Tshabalala, Pumula South and Mzilikazi suburbs have their maternity wings run by private doctors who are charging varying fees between $100 and $250.
“Two clinics Tshabalala and Pumula South have their maternity wings rented out. Two doctors who are not council employees lease these facilities simply because the council is not able to run these facilities due to staff shortages,” said Mangemwe.
She said council is running at an average of 62 percent of the required staff compliment.
“An employment freeze effected in 2010 has seen staff that left then not being replaced. Due to staff shortages, we are unable to run these facilities. When the recruitment freeze is lifted we hope to fill the vacancies and possibly re-open these centres,” said Mangemwe.
Mangemwe also said there are vacancies previously occupied by retired or deceased staff members which have not been filled.
The council has, however, identified land to construct two district hospitals in Bulawayo that will open 24 hours per day.
The staffing crisis has seen the city’s central hospitals, Mpilo and United Bulawayo Hospitals serving an overwhelming number of expectant mothers coming to the hospital to deliver.
Ideally the two facilities are meant to attend referred complicated cases from clinics but of late mothers are coming straight from their homes, as they are not allowed to turn patients away,” she said.
The staffing levels at these institutions have not increased and the wards had not expanded to cater for the overwhelming number of women and this will ultimately compromise services because the staff will be exhausted from handling so many women.