By Tinashe Mungazi
Hwange residents have expressed concern over delays in the opening of the 5 Miles district Covid-19 isolation centre amid reports that the facility is lacking critical equipment at a time when there has been reported positive cases in the district.
The 5-Miles facility, which had been earmarked as a district hospital was abandoned after it developed structural defects some 15 years ago.
The completion of the much-awaited hospital would come as a relief as Hwange was relying on private facilities in Victoria Falls as isolation centres.
The development comes in the backdrop of a rise in Covid-19 positive cases in the district with six positive cases being recorded recently.
As of Wednesday, Matabeleland North Province had 98 confirmed cases and 33 of these were active after 62 people recovered. Three deaths have been recorded in the province, two being from Hwange against a national death toll of 150.
Zimbabwe has recorded 5643 cases and 4442 recoveries.
An official close to the development who requested anonymity told CITE that lack of critical equipment including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers was delaying the opening of the facility.
“To start with, should the centre be opened there is only enough PPE to last just under two weeks. Who would want to be deployed in such conditions noting the rising number of medical staff being infected as a result of the poor or unavailability of protective gear? The facility does not yet have a laundry machine amongst other critical stuff such as ventilators. Yes, some companies have donated various services towards its completion but there is still more to be done especially in equipping the facility.”
Acting Matabeleland North provincial medical director Dr Munekai Padingani could not be reached for comment however, Hwange district Covid-19 task force chairperson, Ndumiso Mdlalose said the refurbishment of the hospital had been completed and was awaiting commissioning by the Matebeleland North Minister of State, Richard Moyo.
“Work on the isolation centre at 5 Miles is complete as you may be aware there was a lot of civil works that needed to be attended to because of the state of the structure. So the major works including the staff cottages have been completed and now await commissioning by the Minister,” said Mdlalose.
He, however, could not be drawn to say when the commissioning was likely to take place.
Mdlalose who is also Hwange Local Board Town Secretary said the isolation centre will likely house between eight and 10 beds.
Recently six OK Supermarket and Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) employees stationed at the Hwange Tollgate tested positive for Covid-19 following Rapid Diagnostic Testing (RDT) tests last week.
The development at Dinde toll gate sent a panic wave amongst villagers who said they feared for their lives after some of the infected employees came into contact with them.
Conclusive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests results are yet to be released meanwhile the six have since been sent home to self-isolate.
Matabeleland North was the first province in the country to record a positive Covid-19 case in March and had managed to contain the spread of the pandemic until recently when there was an influx of border jumpers particularly in Lupane and Tsholotsho districts.
Authorities are investigating contacts of most of the cases.