BY MOSES MATENGA
GOVERNMENT has committed close to $270 million towards construction of a VVIP hospital at Manyame Airbase in Harare and the structure is almost complete, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube has disclosed.
The facility is meant to benefit the country’s VVIPs and service chiefs, who have often been accused of blowing large sums of foreign currency seeking medical treatment in far-away countries like China and India while avoiding dilapidated medical facilities back home.
Because most of the government-run hospitals were in bad shape with reports of drug shortages, and incapacitated doctors and nurses perennially downing tools, the late former President Robert Mugabe often flew to Singapore for treatment. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s deputy, Constantino Chiwenga has also been frequenting China for treatment.
“Construction of Manyame VVIP hospital is progressing well with an amount of $269,5 million having been availed to the project during 2021,” Ncube said in his recent mid-term budget review statement.
“This has seen the first-floor deck being completed while plumbing and electrical works on the second and ground floor are underway with the project now expected to be completed by October 2021.”
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike yesterday blasted government over its misplaced priorities, saying the money used to build the political elite’s state-of-the-art Manyame Hospital could have been channelled towards the refurbishment of public hospitals which were in a sorry state.
“The proposal to construct a VVIP hospital is highly misplacedand not a priority as that money can be used to refurbish and equip the existing public health institutions in the country such as Parirenyatwa, Harare, Mpilo and UBH Central Hospitals for use by the VVIPs,” Rusike said.
“The government should appreciate that equity and universality are implicitly in universal health coverage. Having differences in service availability and quality of care for the VVIPs while neglecting health institutions used by the general public should be condemned as it will widen the equity gap and will not move us towards achieving universal health coverage.”
He added: “Instead of building a VVIP hospital, there is need to address equity in terms of access to health services in the country.”
In his budget review statement, Ncube added that over $400 million had been set aside for refurbishment of public hospitals dotted around the country.
“At Mpilo Central Hospital, rehabilitation and upgrading works on three burnt doctors’ flats, wards, theatres and other support facilities such as incinerators, laundry and off-site facilities is ongoing as well as rehabilitation of the Kwekwe flats which were also destroyed by fire. Phase 1 of the upgrading of the gas reticulation system at the commissioned 30-bedded COVID-19 isolation centre at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital is complete.”
He said there has been “notable progress” realised at United Bulawayo Hospitals, with the COVID-19 Isolation and Treatment Centre, having been officially commissioned in May this year. He said the private sector has also chipped in through provision of equipment for the facilities.