HARARE – The ailing Vice-President and Health Minister of Zimbabwe, Constantino Chiwenga, said Monday the government had banned medical flights abroad for all Zimbabweans, suggesting the trips have sucked up the country’s tight foreign exchange.
Chiwenga – who flew on a private jet to India, South Africa and China last year and was treated for months – made the sensational revelations during a media briefing in the capital as he unveiled a program to reform the health sector.
Chiwenga, who has been on her deathbed at times, recently visited China for a “routine medical check-up” in July this year.
The spirited retired army general said the new plans will prevent Zimbabwean doctors from referring patients to facilities outside the country.
“We will not export our patients. We will not make referrals (to foreign medical institutions) for our patients. It’s all,” Chiwenga told journalists at his new government office in Munhumutapa.
“The ministers are only around 20 but the ones who have gone out are you, you, me overall. This export bill was too high and we want to curb that.
“We want to abolish that, and that requires us to restructure from the village health worker to the quaternary hospital.”
Doctors and nurses in public hospitals have been on strike for more than two months to demand better pay, and many services are closed. It remains unclear how the plan will work with most hospitals lacking basic equipment and medicines after years of government investment in the health sector.
Chiwenga took on the dual role of health secretary last month after Obadiah Moyo was sacked following his arrest for alleged bribery in Covid-19 procurement.
One of his first steps was the immediate dismissal of all non-physician hospital directors and the suspension of all Health Ministry directors. He also asked hospitals to terminate all contracts with suppliers.
The vice president did not specify how the reforms would be funded, though he offhandedly suggested replacing the drug and medical device importation bill with “health-related innovations or substitutions.” to imports”.
Chiwenga further announced that the government would take out housing and car loans as part of the working conditions of health workers, while promising a “specific health allowance” which he hopes will persuade doctors and nurses to end their employment boycott.
“We hope that all complaints will be resolved amicably through discussions without endangering the lives of patients,” he added.
Watch the address here:
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