Virginia Mutsamwira says she treats four times the number of patients she should ideally handle at a township clinic in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
“It’s tiring — the nurse-patient ratio is really bad,” she says, throwing herself onto a brown sofa at her house in Cold Comfort township after a 12-hour shift.
“It’s frustrating, because you can’t offer quality care.”
The 52-year-old senior nurse is skilled, experienced and educated. Yet her monthly salary of some $200 (192 euros) barely covers her basics.
To make ends meet for her family of eight, she runs a small grocery shop out of her home, where she also rears chickens and rabbits for sale.
After work, before she even takes off her blue uniform, she feeds the chickens.
She is joining the exodus of healthcare workers emigrating from Zimbabwe — in her case, “to secure my retirement.”
Official figures show that last year alone Zimbabwe lost nearly 1,800 nurses, mainly to Britain. That’s more than 10 percent of all the nurses working in public hospitals.
Mutsamwira has already done her International English Language Test, required to get a visa to the United Kingdom, where salaries are around 10 times higher than in Zimbabwe.