Medical professionals say Zimbabwe’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has improved facilities at health institutions, boosting the quality of health care and people will benefit long term.
President Mnangagwa declared the pandemic a state of disaster from the outset, leading to improved Government resource allocation for the health sector, as well as marshalling the private sector to come on board and help Government to boost health care delivery.
Following the infrastructural developments, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Jasper Chimedza, said they were committed to improving the quality of health service in the country.
“Infrastructural developments done to boost our response to Covid-19 at various health institutions will benefit people beyond the pandemic,” he said.
“Government is committed to improving the health system, and after the improvement of infrastructure we are now targeting to improve the quality of health care.
“We are aiming at continuous improvement. The bar should not be low, all institutions must improve their services.”
In separate interviews, provincial medical directors (PMDs) for Midlands, Matabeleland North and Masvingo said investments done so far will improve the health system.
“St Luke’s (in Lupane) is the designated provincial hospital at the moment,” said Matabeleland North PMD Dr Munekayi Padingani.
“But we are building a new hospital which might be completed maybe by end of the year, and that will be the new provincial hospital.”
Midlands PMD Dr Reginald Mhene said: “Government channelled more resources to the improvement of infrastructure which saw intensive care units (ICU) facilities being created at various institutions, as well as improved admitting facilities.”
Though they still need more personnel, Masvingo PMD Dr Amadeus Shamhu said they had filled all vacant posts in the province and also created more.
“Initially, we did not have any health personnel at Sango Border Post, but with Covid-19 we were compelled to deploy them at the port of entry,” he said.
“However, the challenge now is accommodation for our team there, and we appeal even to the corporate world to assist.”
Through their funding from the Government and support from Anglo-American, Gweru Provincial Hospital (GPH) has received rapid infrastructure developments in recent years.
These include refurbishment of the casualty department worth more than US$1,1 million, laundry department to improve hygiene worth more than US$55 000, Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit infrastructure and equipment with values of R10 million, US$350 000 and $4 million.
Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga is on record saying Zimbabwe will need sustained investment in its national health system as it angles to commercialise the sector.
Human resources personnel were also boosted at GPH and now have specialists in areas such as Obstetrics and Gynaecology, General Surgery, Orthopaedics, Mental Health, Anaesthetics, Ophthalmology, Psychiatric, Paediatrics and Medicine.
Medical superintendent at the institution Dr Fabian Mashingaidze showed off some of the state-of-the-art equipment, at the hospital which is also now training specialists doctors and general practitioners.
“Gweru hospital has managed to expand tertiary or specialist services over the past few years to the extent that now we have specialists in most specialties that you can think of,” he said.
“We are able to run different operations and medical procedures in the specialties that we have. We also run a renal unit, it has helped our patients with renal failure, they no longer need to travel to Harare for the services.
“We recently had our first total hip replacement surgery for free at this hospital, the first one at any provincial hospital.”
With support from Government, most of the services like dialysis are done for free.
The decentralisation of these clinical procedures is in line with Government’s vision of a universal health coverage and leaving no one behind.
Authorities are clear they want to reduce medical tourism and patient exports through bringing health procedures to their localities.
This month, GPH opened a stroke unit which specialises in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients who have had a stroke.
Head of the department Dr Patience Maramba said it will be a dedicated stroke unit and was looking forward to positive outcomes for patients.
GPH is a teaching hospital following their partnership Midlands State University Medical School, and United Bulawayo Hospital for teaching senior resident medical officers and junior resident medical officers.
This adds to environmental health practitioners’ nurses and midwifery they were already training.
Masvingo General Hospital has also expanded its tertiary facilities and in August will enrol their first batch of medical students in conjunction with Great Zimbabwe University.
Specialist surgeon and medical superintendent of the institution Mr Noel Zulu confirmed the incoming programme expected to start this year that will be aimed at training specialists.
“Through our partnership with Great Zimbabwe University, we are now a teaching hospital and there is a need for more senior and specialists’ doctors before the commencement,” he said.
“I am happy to say the first batch will enrol in August this year.”
At district level, they also improved facilities with radiology services now available at Chiredzi General Hospital.
In Matabeleland South, in Gwanda, Government through the support from Blanket Mine built a new 22 bed Covid-19 Isolation Treatment Centre next to Phakama Clinic.
“We opened the facility on February 11, last month and we treated two patients who have been discharged,” said head of the facility and matron Gertrude Buhali.
“Of the 22 beds, 8 are Intensive Care Units (ICU) beds, all with ventilators and all the equipment needed for an ICU bed,” she said. “The wards are two each with 11 beds, the other a male and a female ward.”
In Plumtree, a dilapidated and out of use tuberculosis treatment centre was revamped into a fully-fledged Covid-19 centre with admission facilities.
Matabeleland South provincial maternal neonatal and child health officer Dr Nobert Singine said improved facilities will help professionals to do their clinical work.
Bulawayo City health director Dr Edwin Sibanda said through their support from Government, they refurbished a cholera ward, and designated another, hitherto unused place at Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital, to be a cholera ward.