Officials at Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo have blamed the delay in reopening of the Covid-19 treatment centre on contractors who are reportedly delaying in completing refurbishment works.
Previously, donor fatigue and challenges in resource mobilisation were initially cited as challenges that affected the hospital’s reopening, which has missed several deadlines to take in critically ill Covid-19 patients.
Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dr Absalom Dube, said the renovation and infrastructural works had progressed very well with most works pending being completed.
Dr Dube said the hospital had to write to them, reprimanding them on the effect of going beyond the set deadline.
“Initially they set February 28, 2021 them March 21, 2021 and moved to April 12, 2021 after those three changes we wrote to them and also through Public Works office, reminding them that if they continue having to move their target of completion dates we might actually activate the deduction percentage on their quotation,” he said.
The acting CEO noted that following an allocation of $50 million by the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), most of the infrastructure projects had progressed well.
“Although the initial stock of works was based on budget after awarding tenders, we saw some of the figures were a bit higher than anticipated. We ended up over shifting to around $80million, so we had a deficit of $30million,” he said.
“NSSA has indicated in principle that they have secured the additional $30 million to cushion us so we can complete the stock of works penciled for us to open to accommodate about 50 patients. We are yet to receive an official confirmation of that availability of funds.”
Dr Dube cited that Ekusileni still had a gap of medial equipment, but said the hospital would be receiving those after tenders were awarded to suppliers.
“We were fortunate last month, when the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare visited us. They also came along with a NSSA delegation. After that meeting, we managed to secure funding for medical equipment to set up five ICU and 10 ordinary beds. As we speak on April 13, the tender closed and the adjudication process was now on,” he indicated.
“One of our staff was invited to come to Harare and assist in the finalisation and selection to choose the best person to supply the equipment. Hopefully this week that process will be through and we should be seeing this equipment trickling in for installation and delivery.”
However, the hospital still lacks office furniture and ICT equipment.
“We remain a bit grey when it comes to office equipment and ICT equipment and we hope to secure funding for these aspects,” Dr Dube said, adding that this will not stall the opening of Ekusileni as it met the Infection and Prevention Control (IPC) Guidelines.
“I can assure you once the equipment comes and infrastructural demands are met, we can do with what we have. We might have to set aside the ICT needs and hopefully that would be sorted as we open. We should be ready to commission even without office furniture I hope these can be sorted out as we go on because patients can be admitted and the system itself will be quite complaint with IPC guidelines as an isolation and treatment centre for Covid-19.”
Bulawayo’s Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC), Paul Nyoni also concurred that the contractor had been “super slow”.
“This one contractor was giving worries as the works were more or less at their pace. That is our main worry,” he said.
The PDC added that there was still need to double capacity of existing nurses and doctors.
“There is a requirement for staff if we are to open for Covid-19. We have nurses and doctors but we need to double that capacity in order to take care of the ICU and (high Dependency Unit) HDU patients. The issue is before the ministry of healthand child care already, we are hoping they will expedite on that,” Nyoni summed.
Due to funding constraints, the bed capacity at Ekusileni had been reduced to15 from the initial 50 beds.
In her post Cabinet briefing Tuesday, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said Government efforts in refurbishing and upgrading health facilities were beginning to yield the desired results.
“Government is pleased to announce that Ekusileni Medical Centre has been fully refurbished and will soon be officially opened. Thorngrove Hospital was refurbished and upgraded to a 28-bed fully equipped Covid-19 isolation centre and is admitting Covid-19 patients. The first-ever free orthopaedic paediatric hospital and Covid-19 Isolation Centre based at United Bulawayo Hospital is also set to be soon officially opened,” she said.