Mpilo Hospital appeals for help to address critical staffing shortages

The administration at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo has appealed to parliamentarians to lobby the government to allow the institution to resume training radiographers to address critical staffing shortages.

Mpilo previously trained radiographers on-site, but the administration says the training school was closed in the early 2000s due to a policy shift that centralised all training in Harare.

The hospital is facing a general workforce crisis in addition to the shortage of radiographers.

Mpilo Principal Nursing Officer (PNO) Matron Phineas Sithole recently told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care that staffing, or the “human resource element,” is a significant factor affecting the hospital’s ability to provide adequate care.

Sithole explained that Mpilo’s maternity wing, pediatric hospital, and radiotherapy departments are all understaffed and rely on personnel from the already strained main wing.

“Our maternity unit was expanded, but the additional wing requires 150 nurses that were not approved. The pediatric unit is essentially a separate hospital and should have its staff of 220, but those positions were never filled either,” said the PNO.

“The same goes for our radiotherapy department, which was also expanded to a 45-bed capacity and needs about 40 nurses, but those positions weren’t filled either. As a result, we are stretching the staff we have in the main hospital.”

The breakdown of radiotherapy machines at Mpilo has also contributed to staff departures, leaving only two radiographers out of the original eight.

Mpilo’s PNO emphasised the critical need to address staffing issues and appealed to lawmakers to advocate for recruitment.

“Local MPs, we want you to take action,” Sithole said. “Speak up about this situation. We used to train radiographers here at Mpilo, but that program was closed due to a policy change. Now we’re facing staff shortages.”

“Advocate for radiographer training to resume here,” the PNO urged the parliamentarians. “With a proper workforce, we could have the experts we need right now. Many of the delays you’re seeing are due to the lack of human resources, which should be a top priority.”

Mpilo Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr. Narcisius Dzvanga suggested that the situation could improve if local institutions were empowered to train specialised nurses.

“The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) offers relevant degrees,” he said. “They have a faculty of radiology and even have equipment at our department. If they could produce enough graduates, it would help fill the gap.”

A member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Descent Bajila, expressed scepticism about the reported nurse shortage.

“Discussing the lack of nurses here is like discussing a coal shortage in Hwange,” said the MP. “How can there be staff shortages when people are looking for jobs?”

Dr Dzvanga responded by acknowledging the staffing needs but explained that “recruitment is done by the head office, which says the Ministry of Finance doesn’t have the budget.”

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