BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/ PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday failed to officially open Ekusileni Medical Centre, with Bulawayo Metropolitan Affairs minister Judith Ncube saying the institution was still undergoing refurbishments.
Mnangagwa then ended up officially opening the United Bulawayo Hospital’s (UBH)’s Old Bartley’s Memorial Block (BMB) and free orthopaedic hospital.
Ekusileni Medical Centre, the brainchild of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, has remained closed since 2004, as governament keeps postponing its opening.
“They are putting final touches on refurbishment works,” said Ncube in an interview.
Ekusileni was closed in 2004 following revelations that it had outdated machinery and equipment. It was identified as a COVID-19 isolation and treatment centre in 2020 but its re-opening remains elusive.
Countless donations of financial and material resources by government, corporate and citizens alike have not helped matters as the institution remains closed despite government promises to ensure it opens its doors to the public. Deadlines have repeatedly been set and missed.
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro visited Ekusileni on Wednesday to assess progress on refurbishment works.
Mnangagwa said the decision by The Zimbabwe Orthopaedic Trust to provide capacity building and training in orthopaedics to UBH staff was to fill the manpower gap through specialised training. The BMB opened its doors to the public in December after it was identified as a COVID-19 isolation and treatment centre. With the opening of UBH’s BMB, Bulawayo now has three COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres — the Catholic-run Mater Dei and the Bulawayo City Council-owned Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital.
Thorngrove opened its doors to the public in January.
“The centre will improve access to specialist orthopaedic surgery and corrective care for children with conditions such as clubfoot, bowed legs, knock knees, rickets and cerebral palsy, among other health challenges. The centre will contribute to new standards in the provision of health care, through the improvement in the quality of services and introduction of new tertiary care services,” Mnangagwa said.
He added: “My administration disbursed a total of $133 million towards the renovating and upgrading of BMB into a COVID-19 isolation facility.
“Government remains indebted to the support the nation received from the private sector following the breakout of the pandemic in our jurisdiction, in February 2020.”
Mnangagwa said the provision of free surgeries to children with correctable disabilities enhances access to specialised medical care.
“Evangelism and counselling services will attend to the spiritual needs of patients and their guardians,” Mnangagwa said.
“These interventions help fight stigma and discrimination while restoring a sense of dignity and inclusion for beneficiaries of the facility.
“The virtues of humanity, love, care and empathy for the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the society must continue to be rooted and promoted in our communities.”
“I challenge other organisations and professionals both within the country and abroad in various medical specialist fields to also take up the challenge as we accelerate the modernisation of our health services sector.”