Covid-19: Ekusileni misses reopening date, again

Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo has once again failed to open with officials citing the lengthy tender procurement process by the government as the cause of the delay.

On October 16, 2020, hospital officials announced that Ekusileni, designated as a national Covid-19 isolation and treatment centre was to open its doors on November 30, 2020 and would be ready to admit critically ill patients.

The date was set after a visit to the institution by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, on October 2, 2020 who committed himself to addressing the ‘shortcomings’ that affected its operationalisation.

In an interview with CITE, acting chief executive officer of Ekusileni, Dr Absalom Dube, said the reason causing the re-opening delay was the long procurement process, which was done by the government.

“Due to the tender processes that had to be undertaken, we sort of underestimated how long it would take and ended up shooting below our target,” he said.

Dr Dube explained that the procurement process was linked to the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), who could not cut corners but have to follow all the laid down procedures in dealing with tenders.

“And that is the bottleneck. For instance when a tender advert is announced, the parties have to follow all the set regulations and the interested persons have to submit their papers. PRAZ will take their time to respond and if there are more people who respond then more time is taken to go through authentication of their papers,” said the acting CEO.

He noted that from the tender advertisements that were placed in a public newspaper, some contractors who responded had already paid a visit to Ekusileni and those selected were now working – pending signing of the agreements.

“These people came early November and the tenders were for infrastructural works such as the woodwork, setting autoclave machines, laying the pavement, setting up the fire detection system and phone systems but mostly the tenders were to do with infrastructural work,” Dr Dube said.

“There are workers who are already doing the fitting and it doesn’t take long but they are refurbishing such as laying the woodwork in the hospital’s kitchen and some are working on the ventilation.”

The opening of the hospital, a brainchild of the late nationalist – Vice President Joshua Nkomo, still remains in limbo as officials are unsure when the hospital will re-open.

“I can’t say when the hospital will open but hope it will be sometime within this year. The re-opening  depends on the works carried out now and I am not sure how long this process will take,” Dr Dube said.

However Dr Dube Ekusileni had already hired medical staff and conducted training a few weeks back.

“We do have some doctors, nurses and other care medical staff. The hiring was done through the Ministry of Health and Child Care working with the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH). We are also still looking for some medical and ICT equipment for the hospital,” Dr Dube said.

Ekusileni has a possible 200-bed capacity but was said it would start with a 50 bed capacity.

Other hospitals identified as Covid-19 treatment centres in Bulawayo are Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital, the Old Bartley Memorial Block (BMB) within the UBH and the privately-owned Mater Dei Hospital.

As at December 11, Zimbabwe has 11 162 confirmed cases, including 9 324 recoveries and 306 deaths.

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