The Zimbabwean government likes to attack social media and blame it for all its problems but the truth is social media has given us ordinary people the sort of voice that was simply not possible a decade ago. It gives us the opportunity to give feedback on the government’s performance in real time-much to the chagrin of ministers and those in power.
Social media exposes the rot at government hospitals
Recently the first lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, visited Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals following a complaint on Facebook. The complaint resonated with a lot of people on the platform and was widely shared. Although it bemoaned the state of affairs at the government hospital in general it singled out the nurses in Ward C5 as being particularly rude and incompetent.
We all have had the experience
Anyone who has been to any government hospital in recent years knows. Often patients are left to suffer and some scream in pain as they await for attendance. Recently my sister was left to bleed after giving birth as the nurse in attendance went out to answer a WhatsApp call and never came back. She would have bled to death had another nurse not happened upon her about two hours later.
We are all full of these stories. Whilst accompanying my brother to Parirenyatwa during one weekend a man who had been rescued from a collapsed deep well was brought in by Mars medics. There was a sense of urgency in the way the medics who brought him in were attending to this man. They fussed over him making sure he was okay and comfortable. In contrast after they signed him over to the hospital and left to resume their duties the man was left to howl and groan in pain as nurses and doctors simply ignored him and passed him by. His sounds of pain drew angry admonishments from the staff who continued to chat away in various rooms nearby.
Recently we wrote about how people in Chiredzi complained about how nurses in attendance were more interested in their WhatsApp messages rather than discharging their duties. Then there was the incident during which twins were burnt to death.The truth is patient abuse and mistreatment is a common occurrence at most if not all government owned hospitals. I am sure most of us have a story about mistreatment at a government hospital.
This visit will not change anything unless …
Politicians from ours to Donald Trump like to visit disaster stricken areas and gain brownie points. Nothing much ever comes out of these visits and more often that not people will continue to suffer after the cameras are long gone. Besides, kind as she is, the first lady does not have the administrative or legislative power to change much.
What we need is accountability. Those in position of authority must fall on their own swords when found out like this. As an aside it is shocking how people in positions of power in Zimbabwe refuse to resign even when they have failed in their duty of care. What we need are more voices on social media sharing their heart rending stories at these places. Social media must be used to bring continued pressure on these people to ensure that they remain accountable.
Technology can help to monitor nurses and doctors
One of the reasons why government institutions continue with their appalling ways is because employees are often left to their own devices. Again this is an issue of accountability. Government institutions are often large so it might be that it is difficult to keep track of things but basic tech that has been existence can help.
For example bio-metric check in can ensure that nurses and doctors come to work on time and keep track of their comings and goings. Cameras can be used to monitor those manning the information desks and how those in queues are being attended to. An automatic next patient assignment system like the one they use at Multichoice desks when serving customers would be helpful so we will know who was supposed to attend the patient if something goes wrong. There are a lot of things tech can do to help these hospitals if only the government was willing.
A rating system where patients and their relatives can leave their rating. The five star system is a pretty powerful accountability tool. They could start with a verified Facebook page where people can share their experiences and rating.
Without social media exposing the rot in government hospitals nothing would ever change. So fake news or not, social media is pretty important in keeping the government in check. The government should see it as a barometer of their performance instead of just demonising it.