Virginia Mutsamvira says that at the city clinic in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, she treats four times more patients.

“It’s tiring – the relationship between nurses and patients is very bad,” she said, rushing to the brown couch at her home in Cold Comfort after a 12-hour shift.

“It’s frustrating because you can’t offer quality help.”

The 52-year-old senior nurse is qualified, experienced and educated. However, her monthly salary of about $ 200 (192 euros) barely covers her basic.

To make ends meet for her family of eight, she runs a small grocery store in her home, where she also raises chickens and rabbits for sale.

After work, before removing the blue form, she feeds the chickens.

She joins the exodus of health workers who have emigrated from Zimbabwe – in her case, “to secure my pension”.

Official figures show that last year alone Zimbabwe lost nearly 1,800 nurses, mostly in Britain. This is more than 10 percent of all nurses working in public hospitals.

Mutsamvira has already passed her international English language test required to obtain a visa to the United Kingdom, where salaries are about 10 times higher than in Zimbabwe.

The outflow of medical personnel deprives the country of desperately needed skills.

“We’re always overwhelmed because a lot of nurses are leaving,” says 33-year-old Josephine Marare, who works at one of the country’s largest public hospitals, Sali Mugabe Central Hospital.

Insufficient equipment only worsens morale. “Imagine working in a hospital where there are no bandages, no water, no basic medications such as painkillers,” she says.

“I’m just so disappointed. If I get the money to get a visa, I will join those who are leaving. ”

Migration has boosted demand for passports, with people queuing until dawn to apply for travel documents in Harare.

– “Won the lottery” –

Zimbabwe’s medical facilities have been collapsing for more than a decade, tracking the economic downturn.

“The main factor is low pay,” said Simbarash Tafiranica, president of the Zimbabwe City and Rural Council of Nurses ‘Union, explaining the nurses’ convention.

“You have to pay for tuition, put food on the table. If anyone has the opportunity, he goes.

It is so desperate that many highly qualified nurses choose junior positions abroad because they pay better.

The Health Council, which evaluates and appoints public health workers, recognizes that the massive outflow of nurses has had an effect.

According to the program aimed at filling staff gaps, nurses are being retired and training is being expanded.

“Losing experienced workers is always a problem,” said Livingston spokesman Mashang.

The board’s website opens with a picture of smiling nurses jumping for joy and a bold message “we are hiring”.

Like other rich countries, Britain has a long tradition of recruiting from developing countries to meet the needs of its health services.

But the deficit in the UK has intensified, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the sharp drop in nurses recruited from Eastern Europe as a result of Brexit.

According to a report by the Health Foundation’s think tank last June, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was short of 93,000 staff. Of these, 42 percent were nurses.

Jason Mutambara, a 45-year-old Zimbabwean father of four, emigrated to Britain last year.

He says he has no regrets – his monthly income has risen to £ 2,700 ($ 3,375), making it easy for him to afford school fees for children.

“It was like you just won the lottery,” he said. “At the moment you can’t even think of coming back.”

Mutambara hopes Zimbabwean authorities will fix the health care system to stop the bleeding of skills.

“We have been trained in Zimbabwe and we owe it to the people of Zimbabwe to continue working for them,” he said. But for now, it seems Britain will be hiring for years to come.

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