Ambulance shortage hits Mat South Covid-19 response

By Sam Noko

MATABELELAND South district hospitals are facing a shortage of ambulances, a development that is affecting service delivery amid reports that some districts are relying on one ambulance for casual patients, pregnant women and Covid-19 patients.

This was confirmed by the Matabeleland South Provincial Epidemiology and Disease Control Officer Andrew Muza who added that although each district had functional ambulances they are not enough to meet demand.

Covid-19 patients are meant to be transported in a designated ambulance to avoid the spread of the virus.

Last year, Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga revealed that the country has a shortage of ambulances with a fleet of 134 functioning ambulances out of 200 that are required in the country.

To that end, the government was establishing an ambulance services directorate to ensure that every part of the country has access to ambulances for emergency services.

“While the Covid-19 cases have gone up most of the cases have been localised such as mild cases in boarding schools that did not require movement of patients by ambulances to treatment centres,” Muza said.

“These patients were in isolation in their schools. Currently, we are coping with the limited ambulances that are in service. So far the districts have received support for response to the Covid-19 pandemic from central government through direct disbursements from the ministry of finance and funds that have been directed to COVID 19 taskforce teams.”

Muza said developmental partners and donors have been forthcoming in supporting the provincial response to Covid-19. He said this has made it easy for them to access additional support when there is a need.

Umzingwane Legislator Levi Mayihlome said they have been mobilising resources under the Save Esigodini Hospital banner which was founded in the United Kingdom (UK) but has chapters in South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

“Save Esigodini Hospital has been raising funds for rehabilitation of hospital facilities and equipment, including the ambulance. The results of these efforts are there on the ground for all to see. The community, especially the business sector has been very generous especially with regards to the containment of the coronavirus outbreak,” Mayihlome said.  

Esigodini Hospital reportedly started experiencing serious transport shortages last year with only one ambulance available to ferry casual patients, pregnant women and Covid-19 patients to the hospital and major referral health institutions in Bulawayo. 

This emerged when donors under the Umzingwane Originals banner donated various items meant to fight Covid 19 to the hospital.

Then  Umzingwane Acting District Medical Officer Cleopas Makonese had noted that the district hospital has only one ambulance that is used for patients’ transportation.

“Transport- currently there’s only one ambulance that is doing everything, from ferrying casual patients, pregnant women and also Covid-19 patients, which makes it a big challenge and risk to the casualty patients and pregnant women,” Makonese had said.

Makonese said the district has a response team that comprises five members namely one pharmacist, one Nurse, one E.H.T, one doctor and one Lab Technician.

“This team deals with any suspected cases related to Covid-19 and isolation centres. The hospital turned the Rehabilitation Department into an isolation centre and it has 5 beds. Their wish is to expand to two nearby clinics namely Habane and uMzingwane and have isolation centres there as well,” Makonese had noted.

“A lot of cases that need theatre services are ferried to sister hospitals like United Bulawayo Hospitals (U.B.H) and Mpilo Central.”

At the time Umzingwane Originals  donated various items worth $34 716.

Recently, the business community and individuals in the Umzingwane district joined hands to mobilise resources to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for Esigodini Hospital in a bid to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has also hit the nearby Sacred Heart primary and secondary School which recorded 252 cases.

Embakwe High School in Mangwe district also recorded 91 cases.

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