The Zambia Medical Association says flamboyant buildings cannot treat patients in the absence of about 500 experienced nurses recently fired by government.
ZMA president Aaron Mujajati said the dismissal of experienced nurses from major hospitals has affected operations and the quality of healthcare service for the patients.
Dr Mujajati said the health sector thrived on expertise and wondered how the new recruits said to have replaced the dismissed staff would work without the necessary supervision.
The ZMA revealed that healthcare service had remained suboptimal, more so in the absence of trained health practitioner to see that quality of services in public health institutions was far from ideal.
“All medical fields thrive on apprenticeship for safety of patients as one of the major reasons. So who is showing these new nurses the ropes after the dismissal of the mentors? Need we say more?” he questioned.
He explained that while other nations were carrying out mass recruitment of health personnel, the Zambian government seemed to have the luxury of dismissing the nurses without consideration of the patients.
He said although they welcomed the infrastructure development taking place in the health sector, including at the largest health institution in the country, University Teaching Hospital (UTH), there was very little being done to address the question of service delivery.
“Currently if you take UTH for instance only one nurse takes care of over 60 patients in the wards at night and on top of that some of them are new and inexperienced.
“A newly graduated nurse needs to work under supervision for at least 18 months and in some cases three years before they can be left to work alone,” he said.
Dr Mujajati said the doctors were concerned with the state of affairs after the dismissal of the nurses and questioned how long the recovery period could take at the expense of the patients.
He charged that the national population was increasing without any corresponding rise in resources or change of strategy to redress the growing demand of healthcare services, adding that there was a general shortage of health care personnel globally.
“We have stated before that the strike action by the nurses was not right but we still maintain that dismissing them was not the correct way to proceed for a number of reasons, but you cannot simply fire experienced nurses and replace them with newly graduated ones and assume all is well.
“No health worker is happy to nurse a patient on the floor or to be told every so often that one thing or the other is out of stock and you have to hopelessly watch you patient deteriorate. At which point should these issues attract the due attention of those who make the real difference?” he said.
He said as a nation, Zambia had come a long way in the 49 years of independence and should already be at a certain level other than the desire shown to improve the infrastructure.
“Funding to a number of public hospitals is behind by four or more months. Would these issues have a different perspective if our leaders or their close relatives were attended in the same environment as the patients from Kanyama?
“All is not well and we should not as a people and nation deceive ourselves. Is the life of a poor Zambian who has no real alternatives to public hospital services worth saving? We believe that is what it all comes down to,” Dr Mujajati said.