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Covid-19: Tagwirei linked hospital deal with UBH raises eyebrows

By Tanaka Mrewa and Senzeni Ncube

A Harare health facility with links to controversial tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei has taken over a section of the Bulawayo United Hospitals (UBH) where it will open a Covid-19 treatment centre.

The deal between Arundel Hospital and UBH has, however, raised eyebrows as it was not put to tender since it involves a public asset.

Arundel Hospital has already  started recruiting health staff for the UBH Covid-19 facility.

In the job advertisements, it said it was “opening a Covid-19 centre at United Bulawayo Hospital in partnership with the government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Health.”

“The centre will be an extension of Arundel Hospital,” it added. 

“Arundel Hospital will be responsible for remuneration and welfare of staff. 

“We are, therefore, looking for suitable qualified and experienced candidates to fill the following positions on a one-year fixed term contract.” 

Arundel Hospital in Harare was officially opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last year where he heaped praises on Tagwirei.

The oil tycoon has been accused of unfairly dipping into state coffers through murky government contracts ranging from command agriculture to fuel deals.

Observers say the government decision to  hand over part of a critical  public facility, such as UBH, opened avenues for corruption.

Tagwirei’s takeover of a section of the UBH follows a year of dithering by government over the setting of Covid-19 treatment centres in the southern region.

Political analyst Effie Ncube said the health facility will only benefit the elite, leaving the poor struggling to attain quality health services.

Ncube said priorities should have been placed on availing outstanding resources to the already allocated facilities before embarking on new projects. 

“One would have hoped that the priority would be to equip the already existing facilities which are crying for help, like Thorngrove and Ekusileni. Facilities such as Thorngrove has the ability to accomodate the most ordinary residents of Bulawayo and Matabeleland region,” he said. 

“By neglecting these centers and opting to finance a different center, it would affect the rest of the struggling majority. This shows that the poor people in the region and the country at large are on their own. There is an urgent need to reconfigure the priorities by those that are responsible for the provision of health services.”

Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) programmes manager John Maketo said the government should desist from privatising critical services. 

“Overally speaking I think the concern would be the deteriorating state of our health service delivery in the country and privatization  of public service such as health and education, those are the major concerns from the citizen perspective,” he said.

According to an investigation carried out by CITE, Bulawayo’s quarantine hospitals have poor facilities that do not meet World Health Organisation’s (WHO) minimum standards.

The designated health centres are Ekusileni Medical Centre, Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital and UBH.

Bulawayo City Council-run Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital is partially open and  has  no ventilator to support critically ill patients.

Ekusileni Medical Centre is also yet to open its doors.

The Roman Catholic Church owned  Mater Dei charges at least US$3 000, which is beyond the reach of most Bulawayo residents.

Acting UBH acting chief executive officer  Narcisious Dzvanga defended the Arundel Hospital deal.

Dzvanga said although they were still in the process of finalising the memorandum of understanding with Arundel Hospital, equipment for the Covid-19 centre had already been delivered.

“They will bring in all the needed equipment and will pay all members of staff while providing free treatment for the people of Bulawayo,” he said.

“UBH will only be overseeing (the project). 

“At the moment they have brought 40 intensive care unit beds. 

“The drafting has been done and there are only a few corrections that need to be done to finalise the memorandum of understanding. 

“However, the corrections will not stop the deliveries from being done.”

Questioned on the differences between the Arundel Hospital centre at UBH and the Old Bartley Memorial Block, Dzvanga said: “Arundel is going to be run by philanthropist, on a philanthropic bases, they will bring everything from equipment, staff and yet still provide free treatment services to the people of the region”.

Meanwhile, Ekusileni Medical Centre acting chief executive officer Absalom Dube said the facility, which has failed on several occasions to open, is likely to become open its doors anytime from now.

An initiative by Bulawayo residents known as IAM4BYO has been mobilising resources from locals and those from the diaspora to help reopen the place.

“There has been progress of late, the only hold up is the infrastructure development, ” Dube said. 

“Once that is completed, we will be able to open our doors. 

“Our contractor has given us up to February 28 to finish up then after that we will then be only left with establishing how many beds and monitors we can put up.”

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