Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE Ministry of Health and Child Care has engaged Treasury to facilitate the unfreezing of more than 900 vacant posts for environmental health personnel and laboratory scientists to tackle the cholera outbreak that has claimed 27 lives in Harare.
In an interview yesterday, the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo, said his ministry required more nurses, environmental health officers, technicians and laboratory scientists to arrest the outbreak.
“There is definitely a need for us to be able to increase the number of staff to man and control the spread of the disease. Of essence is the environmental health technicians and we want more environmental health technicians so that we deploy them countrywide,” he said.
Dr Moyo said the country had qualified people who are not employed and it was essential for Government to engage them in the fight against cholera.
“We realise that there are already some qualified environmental health technicians whom we can depend on and we want to request Treasury to concur with us and allow us to engage these environmental health technicians and employ more laboratory scientists who can be able to carry out the tests,” he said.
“There is a lot of testing that is required so we need to fill those posts. We have the bodies but we don’t have the posts and likewise we need more nurses to be able to control this epidemic. I hope that we will get the posts because it is essential.”
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gerald Gwinji, has since written to the Health Services Board requesting the unfreezing of 957 vacant posts for environmental health technicians and laboratory scientists.
According to the letter addressed to the executive director of the Health Services Board (HSB), Ms Ruth Kaseke, the Ministry of Health and Child Care wants the unfreezing of 737 vacant posts of environmental health technicians out of a total of 1 469 and 50 environmental health officers out of a total establishment of 122.
The Ministry is also requesting HSB to facilitate the urgent unfreezing of 155 posts for laboratory scientists and 20 for laboratory technicians.
Dr Gwinji said the filling of the posts would ensure the availability of core capabilities which are critical for the response to the cholera outbreak and protection of Zimbabweans and health workers.
The environmental health and laboratory services have a total establishment of 2 051 personnel and requires 957 posts to be filled. According to the cost analysis, the Government will have to part with at least $847 430 for the recruitment exercise.
“As you might be aware, Zimbabwe has declared a state of emergency arising from the cholera outbreak. The urgent request for the unfreezing of posts for environmental and laboratory services is meant to find urgent ways of stopping the outbreak and mobilising resources to deal with the same.”
The cholera and typhoid outbreaks experienced in the country are clear indicators of poor water and sanitation projects, hygiene education and inspection of food outlets and water quality should be done at ward level by environmental health personnel,” read part of the letter.
Dr Gwinji said one of the major challenges in combating cholera and typhoid is the shortage of requisite human resources.
“The current staffing levels are at 50 percent due to the freeze on recruitment. The water quality monitoring is conducted through the use of laboratory services, which is also affected by human resource shortage. There is urgent need to strengthen the preventive services by engaging environmental heath and laboratory staff,” he said.
So far there are 27 confirmed deaths since the outbreak of the epidemic in Harare’s Glen View suburb. The Government has since declared a state of emergency to enable the necessary assistance to be rendered in fighting the disease. — @mashnets