Zambia’s deepening crisis in COVID era: a shortage of health workers – Dr Cosmas Musumali
Today, Zambia faces a huge challenge as there is a glaring shortage of health workers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our country lacks close to 15,000 to 16,000 health workers for a normal work routine. Given these shortages of so many health workers, today’s deepening crisis in the era of Covid demands more work on the few available health workers.
Over 70 to 80 percent of all the health workers in Zambia are in the public sphere. As such, it is the public sector that should be taking a lead in terms of the employment of health workers. Yet, over the years, the country has not recruited enough health workers. Each year, this country is producing close to 4,000 health workers, and recruitment is around 2,000 to 2,500. The attrition rate is around 2000 to 3000 workers.
Our health workers are the soldiers that we are sending into battle to help us fight the virus. Instead, what we have seen is a leadership that has failed to act timeously, and wasted public resources on unnecessary purchases. What we should have instead seen is a leadership that is more committed to addressing the COVID-19 crisis through channeling efforts to staff recruitment through the Ministry of Health. Recent pronouncements for the Ministry of Health reveal promises to increase the recruitment of more health workers. However, the Socialist Party’s findings in most of the districts across the country show that no new health workers have joined the work force.
As a result of this lack of priority and incompetence from our government, we are today faced with a crisis of inadequate health workers to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Zambia is yet to reach the peak of the crisis. The growing number that we are seeing today is just the beginning of a far much deeper crisis ahead. Our levels of preparedness to handle a far much larger crisis is very low. With these few numbers of health workers we have today, what should we do? We have armies of trained young people that are not on the payroll. What should we do? Where are we channeling the health resources? We need answers!