Mpilo struggles with surge in drug abuse cases

Mpilo Central Hospital doctors are raising alarm about a surge in young patients admitted for drug, alcohol, and substance abuse, straining the already stretched resources of the hospital.

Despite indications of a high usage rate of drug and substance abuse, doctors lamented that the population’s help-seeking behaviour is low while access to psychosocial therapy at the hospital is also strained.

Zimbabwe is now seeing an increase in substance abuse, with doctors claiming this scourge is now one of the leading causes of disease burdens.

According to Mpilo Clinical Director, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, hardly a day or two goes by without the hospital admitting youth who are “near death caused by overuse and abuse of substances.”

“The issue of drug and substance abuse is more of a community issue and should be tackled from the grassroots so that people are made aware. You see in some of the cases, a 30-year-old comes to the hospital, dead here with intoxication,” he said to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care that had visited Mpilo recently.

Professor Ngwenya said substance abuse together with cancer screening, should be spoken about in the communities.

“Politicians play a pivotal role in lessening these diseases by talking to people,” he said, noting that patients usually present themselves late at the hospital, which will be unable to offer much and “people die.”

Mpilo Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Narcisius Dzvanga, concurred that the hospital was overwhelmed to follow up on patients of drug and substance abuse, especially after they were discharged.

“There is a rehabilitation centre at Chipadze in Bindura. Even here at Mpilo we can accommodate but the numbers are overwhelming even at Ingutsheni Hospital, it is overwhelmed,” the CMO said.

A member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Perseverance Zhou inquired how Mpilo Hospital helps individuals suffering from drug and substance abuse locally before doctors can talk about a rehabilitation centre in Bindura.

In response, Dr Dzvanga said Mpilo does have a social worker on the ground but she is overwhelmed to deal with all cases.

“The social worker does have attachees to assist her but the establishment is small to handle the numbers that we are now seeing,” Dr Dzvanga said.

“The social worker deals with the patients when they are here but she’s not adequately capacitated to do house follow-ups but she can counsel them here.”

Dr Dzvanga said Mpilo did ask for an increase of social workers but the government said: “the pocket of the Ministry of Finance is still low so they can’t take extra posts.”

The CMO added that the community too, can play a role in disseminating public information for public awareness programmes.

“There are efforts made by the local council and either our parent ministry. As Mpilo we had a programme recently with the local authority to promote against drug and substance abuse. I don’t know if they are eye-catching but a lot needs to be done,” Dr Dzvanga said

The clinical director also added that awareness should be raised amongst the population to save lives, seeing that there is an increase in Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). 

“The burden of diseases is increasing – hypertension, strokes, diabetes, renal diseases, HIV, cancer deaths and assault cases are a major burden in Mpilo’s portfolio,” said Prof Ngwenya.

“We have about 70 patients on renal dialysis, the burden is increasing as well. Roughly one or two people are dying of cancer every day or so, which is quite worrying for us clinicians. The hospital can do cancer screening, cervical cancer screening and treatment for early diseases including surgery for slightly advanced diseases but for those with advanced diseases states three and four, nothing can be done for them and they are dying at this rate, which I have mentioned.”

Prof Ngwenya lamented how the communities also appear to be growing more violent.

“We see two or three people having been assaulted, which is not good and takes away resources unnecessarily. Assault should be avoided. People must be well-behaved and not assault each other,” said the clinical director, calling on the MPs who sit on the health committee and others to talk to communities about these dangers.

“Talk briefly about sex, HIV and good societal behaviour, this will go a long way.”

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