Source: Chikurubi appeals for funds | The Herald June 14, 2019
Ellen Chasokela Herald Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPSC) has appealed to the Government for funds to pay off its debts at general hospitals and buy medication. The health of ailing prisoners has been compromised following the decision by Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (PGH) to only attend to emergency cases because ZPSC owes it $950 000.
This came out during a tour by the parliamentarians of Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and Chikurubi Female Prison.
Deputy director health services at the prison Dr Patrick Mhaka said lack of medication has resulted in patients taking too long to stabilise, while the Special Board and Mental Health Review Tribunal sits once or twice a year, thereby delaying decisions on detained mental patients (DMP). The prison currently has 300 DMPs.
“These DMPs are more of patients than inmates and they face so many challenges compared to the other inmates. We have drug shortages to treat their conditions, they suffer from different conditions such as bipolar, epilepsy and substance misuse.
“They require medication every day, so there is a great demand for them to have medications, so sometimes we have challenges in meeting their needs. We really need your support because this is no ideal rehabilitation for people who suffer from mental illness. In other countries, these patients are kept in special hospitals away from prison. After we release them, we find it difficult to transport them back to their homes and they remain here using the prisons medication and some of them end up being ill again.
“If you visit the psychiatric unit at Harare Hospital, that is a world class hospital for mental patients. We find that they have padded wards so that patients do not harm themselves and there are recreational activities for patients to occupy themselves, which is considered therapeutic,’’ said Dr Mhaka.
He also added that detained mental patients have been excused from wearing prison garb and will soon be provided with hospital uniforms since they are more of patients than inmates
Officer in charge at the female prison Superintendent Mary Chakarakara said the health facilities at the prison needed urgent attention.
“The prison has one ambulance and is not functional at the moment, so we only have one big truck that ferries inmates to court and in case of an emergency or labour pain, that same truck will ferry the inmate to the hospital.
“The babies that accompany their mothers to prison spend the day at the preschool so that they do not feel imprisoned together with their mothers. We have a diet scale for the children to guide us, but sometimes we are constrained budgetary wise. Our clinic is responsible for medical services for the children and we also have a ward for mental patients, but if it is serious, we refer them to central hospitals,’’ she said.
Resident doctor Dr Blessing Dhoropa said proper healthcare was helping to preserve inmates’ physical function, making it possible for their successful reintegration into society upon release.
“We have our clinics that treat certain ailments, however, there are other procedures that we refer to Parirenyatwa. Our lab is not fully functional because we do not have consumables, so it is difficult to carry our x-rays for tuberculosis patients.
“We have 518 inmates that are HIV positive, 496 are on first line and 22 are on the second line and 24 tuberculosis-infected patients and they all receive their medication here. We have a few STIs cases and we are carrying a survey to see the rate of new HIV infections.
“From January this year to date we have had six deaths. Our mortuary is down, so we are taking the corpses to Parirenyatwa Hospital,’’ said Dr Dhoropa.