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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

It’s scandalous for Zambia not to Employ the 700 doctors, but have Money to urgently Employ District Commissioners

Columns It's scandalous for Zambia not to Employ the 700 doctors, but have...

By Fred M’membe

We urgently need to employ more than the 700 doctors

The Zambia Medical Association says “Zambia currently has close to 700 medical doctors and dental surgeons who have been awaiting employment for almost two years”.

For a country with so few, and desperately in need of, doctors this is difficult to understand and accept.
Today Zambia’s physicians density stands at 1.19 physicians/1,000 population (2018) – (Source: CIA World Factbook – This page was last updated on September 18, 2021).

The physician density gives the number of medical doctors (physicians), including generalist and specialist medical practitioners, per 1,000 of the population. Medical doctors are defined as doctors that study, diagnose, treat, and prevent illness, disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans through the application of modern medicine. They also plan, supervise, and evaluate care and treatment plans by other health care providers. The World Health Organization estimates that fewer than 2.3 health workers (physicians, nurses, and midwives only) per 1,000 would be insufficient to achieve coverage of primary healthcare needs.

Physicians density in Zambia was 0.091 as of 2016. It was 0.163 in 2012, 0.052 in 2006 (Source: World Health Organization’s Global Health Workforce Statistics, OECD, supplemented by country data).

WHO estimates that at least 2.5 medical staff (physicians, nurses and midwives) per 1,000 people are needed to provide adequate coverage with primary care interventions (WHO, World Health Report 2006).

It’s scandalous that a country with such a low physician density cannot prioritise the employment of 700 doctors. But it has money to urgently employ district commissioners and other political personnel.

The country needs far more doctors than the 700 we are failing to employ. We actually urgently need to hire more expatriate doctors to meet the minimum number required to give our people the minimum acceptable standard of health care.

With a physician density of 1.19 per 1,000 population it means that the great majority of our people are born and die without ever seeing or being touched by a doctor. When such people talk of a doctor they are actually talking about a clinical officer or male nurse – since a female nurse is referred to as a “sister”.

And because of this very low physician density we are everyday unnecessarily losing our women in childbirth. Today Zambia, with a maternal mortality of 591 deaths per 100,000 live births, is among countries with the highest maternal mortality rates in the world partly due to lack of doctors. Five per cent of our expecting mothers need Caesarean operation, especially with a very high number of teenage pregnancies. But a Cesarean operation can only be conducted by a qualified physician, and not a clinical officer or nurse. Many of our health centres, clinics and hospitals don’t have doctors to carry these desperately needed Cesarean operations.
Clearly, we urgently need to employ more than the 700 doctors we are failing to employ.

Life is sacred. One cannot claim to uphold the principle of the sanctity of life if provision has not been made for even minimal healthcare for every person.

This is a priority we cannot ignore if we wish to be a caring and compassionate nation. It must be recognized that, if this problem is to be tackled, it will demand the allocation of more state resources to health.

The Socialist Party is making its modesty contribution by training a few medical doctors. Right now it has 17 young Zambians from poor backgrounds studying medicine abroad. And this year it is sponsoring another 30.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Fred has very right to express his views and option over what is happening in Zambia…that is called democracy how do you ask someone to shut up! Whether he has a seat in parliament or not it carries no water..in fact government has employ 10,000 nurses and 1000 doctors….

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  2. @ #2, this is a very daft comment. Not winning does not exclude one from commenting on important matters. You are a clear reflection of the dodgy BMW.

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  3. If you stay for about four years without working or applying the acquired knowledge after graduating, your ability to use the knowledge acquired to solve given problems will diminish. Since Hh and other businessmen have no time for Zambians but their businesses, they cannot comprehend what Fred M’membe has illustrated. Today UPND is more occupied in making PF look dirtier than what it actually is and then compare their decisions and actions to the painted PF. It will end in tears.

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  4. @No Corruption Zambia. Maybe you should be the one to shut up. People need diverse opinions. Who said your pea brain contains great ideas and opinions? Fred, your observation is right on-time and I’m with you.

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  5. What is a job description of a DC?

    These are pure cadres whobdont deserve to be on govt payroll.

    These no qualification to being a DC.

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  6. @General Kanene, you’re better than that. When the only thing you have is a hammer every problem looks like a nail. Human safety should/must by far be priority, in this sense the employment of doctors supersedes that of DCs. You say there’s a budget for 11,000 health personnel, is that strategic or tactical or operational? Do you by chance see the bigger picture in M’membe’s statement or is it just a case of blind loyalty and caderism?

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  7. Salaries for District Commissioners were already in PF’s 2021 budget. The recruitment of Health and teaching personnel is a UPND policy which has been budgeted for in this financial year 2022. People should stop generating empty arguments for attention. I am shocked that some people think that Mmembe has said something so ground breaking. What was scandalous was that $1.3 billion was been used to subsidize fuel and 42% of those with access to electricity while the 58% majority were left with no help. The UPND govt should be commended for switching this expenditure to health and education. The same people who condemned the removal of subsidies are now screaming that the doctors are not being recruited fast enough.

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  8. 1. Fred Mmembe, good on you – to hear that you are contributing and sponsoring our 17 youth from poor background to go and study abroad. We all need to do our part.

    Unless otherwise. True the 11,000 Health Workers the government has promised to employ does not include Doctors. This info can be obtained easily. Its openly available for the public if you need to find out a true reflection. MMD, PF all failed our doctors. It’s too early to judge UPND on this issues. However, UPND must put national interest first and not making political calculations & pronouncement using our Health Services as a spin-ball. The biggest obstacle has been lack of housing & accommodation, especially those that get posted in rural areas.

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  9. OlympusHasFallen,
    Well done my brother. How can a normal person compare the recruitment of doctors and that of DCs? Let us be serious, we know UPND has supporters but these supporters must be objective and relevant in order to make their party succeed. We have walked this path before, the question to you UPND cadres is, where is PF, how and why did they leave office?

  10. 2. In November 2021, a UK based recruitment agency specialising in hiring Medical Professionals called (We-Solutions) just headhunted and snapped up 15 Zambian Doctors to come and work in the UK NHS Trust & Private Hospitals.

    Out of the 15 Doctors leaving to work in UK in April 2022; 10 are junior doctors and 5 are experienced doctors. They will go through a registration procedure or some form of entry exam. This is the manpower. Zambia has trained and yet we are losing every single year. That said, every individual is entitled to find better career green pastures. So its better prioritise hiring life saving professionals such as doctors and not political cadres called District Commissioners. Especially, coming from HH who said he would scrap District Commissioners.

  11. #6 Me I didn’t win a seat so I will just shut up funny kind of reasoning. Thought one reason PF lost was it’s intolerant attitude.

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  12. @OlympusHasFallen,
    You started off well in your comment, but you later spoiled it with your “..blind loyalty and caderism”. In my comment, I possed a question. You would have done better to elaborate, what the issue at hand was, but you failed. Is the ISSUE that we have 1.19 physicians/1,000 population (as opposed to the 2.5/1,000 recommended by WHO) OR that we have not employeed the 700 available doctors? The heading says “It’s scandalous for Zambia not to Employ the 700 doctors”, but the issue at hand IS NOT about the 700??? Even if you employed the 700, that will not make you reach the average 2.5/1,000…..Therefore, the issue has roots in the Education system, are you producing enough doctors? NO need to mix with employment of DC.

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  13. I usually disagree with Membe but on this one I agree with him.
    The job discription of a District Commissioner is vague.
    Many times they duplicate the job of police.
    The job of DC in modern times was created by the late Michael Chilufya Says just before the third term saga
    HH has kept it to pacify HH supporters some being cadres.

  14. You never see anything wrong with your political party’s decisions until they get kicked out of power.
    Defending and massaging wrong things is what got PF kicked out of power. No matter how much you defend, a wrong is a wrong.
    Intolerance of opposing views is suicidal for a political party in a democracy.

  15. #12 Francis… there we go again PF this PF that. You say DC wages were in PF budget. What about fuel subsidies were they not in PF budget. Which is better? To maintain cheaper fuel or to prop up DCs whose job is nondescript? Hiked fuel prices have adversely affected productivity while the absence of a DC has no effect on production.

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  16. #20 Isaachar… To a political fanatic there’s a lot of difference between EATING NSHIMA WITH BEANS AT LUNCH AND EATING BEANS WITH NSHIMA FOR SUPPER. He will defend it with his life as long as this is what his leaders have told him.

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  17. @General Kanene, I have followed your posts from years back. You’re a smart guy but on this one you’re off the tangent. That “ Even if you employed the 700, that will not make you reach the average 2.5/1,000”. There is always a starting point, if 700 is not a good starting point out of the 700 unemployed doctors what is good then? Even if we didn’t reach that average, a positive impact on that average would have been felt don’t you think so? I also know you are familiar with clever ways of eating an elephant not so?

  18. A surgeon will assure a patient on an operation procedure that would give relief to the patients nagging ailment, but that is only the surgeon as to getting to have the actual surgery performed a whole lot of preparatory steps have to be taken by a “team” of specialized personnel and equipment for the surgeon to meet his goal. Any omission and/or dysfunction could derail or abort the exercise! That said, the focus is being placed on recruitment of the doctors and justifiably reasoned arguments are being put forth, however the omission in the discourse is on the “Treasury Authority” that would bring to actualization employing the doctors. As the new administration respects the law, it can not overlook this provision but indeed steps must be instituted to provide for progressive…

  19. ……. arguments are being put forth, however the omission in the discourse is on the “Treasury Authority” that would bring to actualization employing the doctors. As the new administration respects the law, it can not overlook this provision but indeed steps must be instituted to provide for progressive recruitment towards the recommended staffing! As for doctors, that they owe government sponsorship fees does not mean harassing the administration to be employed for even in private practice the loans can be repaid!

  20. Are doctors forbidden from setting up private practices in Zambian?
    If it is not forbidden and they are qualified, then they should get out of the dependency culture and start private practices or do voluntary work.
    I have a motto: “Things don’t happen you have to make it happen”
    If they cannot work as doctors do something else, they are supposed to be educated people.
    Be entrepreneurial

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