Dr Douglas Gwatidzo: Patients ask, but there is nothing we can do

The doctor's view
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There are a few clinics still open and accepting patients, but they are not coping at all, because of the large number of patients who go there. So there is no way you can say the medical profession in the country is coping.

It is not just the medical profession that one has to look at – there are many other factors. For example, there is raw sewage flowing on the streets, and this issue is not being addressed. There are suburbs where there has been no running water from the taps for more than a year. Where I live, we have not had tap water since February.

This is the kind of lifestyle that everybody in Zimbabwe is having to deal with. It is a life of uncertainty, and a life of insecurity. As a doctor it is very upsetting because you know what you are capable of doing. You know the kind of care that you can give to patients, but because of all these problems, you find yourself in a difficult situation. I do not blame those practitioners who decide not to work, because it is very difficult when a patient asks you for help, but you know you cannot help them. Then, one by one, they die in front of you. It is not easy for anyone to deal with that, day in, day out.

I think the disaster is going to get worse. This afternoon, the rain was pouring down in Harare, and one can imagine the sewage that has been washed into the rivers. Also, the shallow wells that have been dug to get water are going to get contaminated, yet they will still be used. I have seen a number of cholera cases, even where I work, in a private hospital. It is affecting everybody. I remember telling somebody that one thing people forget is that cholera, like any other killer disease, doesn't need a passport; it doesn't need a posh car; it doesn't need a visa; it doesn't need any form of special document. It can visit you anywhere by any means of transport.

Dr Douglas Gwatidzo is chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights