HARARE – Virginia Mutsamwira says she is treating four times as many patients as she ideally should be treating at a clinic in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare township.
“It’s tiring – the caregiver-patient ratio is really bad,” she says, collapsing on a brown sofa in her Cold Comfort home after a 12-hour shift.
“It’s frustrating because you can’t provide quality care.”
The 52-year-old head nurse is competent, experienced and educated. Her monthly salary of around 200 dollars (192 euros) is just enough for the bare necessities.
To make ends meet for her family of eight, she runs a small home grocery store, where she also raises chickens and rabbits to sell.
After work, even before taking off her blue uniform, she feeds the chickens.
Mutsamwira joins the exodus of health workers migrating from Zimbabwe – in her case “to secure my retirement”.
Official figures show Zimbabwe lost almost 1,800 nurses last year, mostly to the UK. That’s more than 10 percent of all nurses working in public hospitals.
Mutsamwira has already passed her international English test, which is required for a visa to the UK, where salaries are about 10 times higher than in Zimbabwe.
The brain drain is depriving the country of much-needed skills.
“We are always overwhelmed because a lot of nurses are leaving,” said Josephine Marare, 33, who works at one of the country’s largest public hospitals, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital.
Under-equipped facilities only lower morale. “Imagine working in a hospital where there are no bandages, no water, no simple medications like painkillers,” she says.
“I’m so frustrated. If I get money to get a visa, I’ll join the others who are leaving.
Migration has fueled demand for passports as people line up before dawn to apply for travel documents in Harare.
- additional information by AFP