Prosper Ndlovu/Pamela Shumba, Chronicle Reporters
MENTAL patients at Ingutsheni Central Hospital in Bulawayo are developing scurvy due to poor nutrition.
The psychiatric hospital caters for about 2 000 patients and entirely depends on Government’s budgetary allocations, which have not been adequate over the years resulting in critical expenditure shortfalls.
Bulawayo MPs have since called for urgent Government and private sector intervention to address the plight of patients at the referral institution, which is also experiencing drug shortages.
Makokoba MP Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, who is also Minister of War Veterans revealed the outbreak of scurvy at Ingutsheni during a tour of milling companies by Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the city last Thursday.
“I visited Ingutsheni Hospital recently and patients there are developing scurvy because of lack of proper nutrition. Those people there hardly have meat in their diet,” said Rtd Col Dube.
“The patients there need our collective assistance so that they have good health.”
Scurvy is a chronic disease caused by severe lack of vitamin C in the body. Its symptoms are swollen, spongy and purplish gums that are prone to bleeding. Other symptoms include loose teeth, bulging eyes, scaly, dry and brownish skin and very dry hair that curls and breaks off close to the skin.
Pumula MP Cde Godfrey Malaba said delays in addressing the situation at Ingutsheni was regrettable.
“Ingutsheni Hospital does not only lack food supplies but critical drugs and medication as well. The welfare of patients there should be addressed urgently,” he said.
“Can you imagine a situation whereby one day mental patients escape from that institution and go into society? There would be serious chaos.
What about the plight of the workers who look after them in cases when drugs run out?”
Luveve MP Cde Ntando Mlilo also weighed in saying Ingutsheni also lacks drugs, which cripples service delivery. He urged Government and the private sector to seriously consider the situation at the hospital.
Acting President Mnangagwa then donated five tonnes of maize meal to the hospital that was sourced from Blue Ribbon Foods.
In an interview, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa acknowledged the challenges facing Ingutsheni Hospital saying he was working closely with Treasury to address them.
“The scurvy disease is being caused by lack of proper diet. Ingutsheni Hospital does not charge user fees like other hospitals. It, therefore, needs financial support from Government and well-wishers to maintain standards and keep patients in good health,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“In December last year Treasury released $70 000 to buy drugs and enough food to upgrade living conditions at the hospital. The money was not enough but it assisted the hospital to calm down patients who were now attacking nurses due to shortage of drugs.”
He said funding was urgently needed to assist not only Ingutsheni, but other mental hospitals in the country too.
“We’re already communicating with the Ministry of Finance to remember the hospitals in the budget.
“While we’re working on sourcing proper funding from partners and well-wishers, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is providing mealie-meal to these hospitals. We will continue engaging our partners because the patients at these hospitals need good protein besides the maize they are getting from Government,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
Authorities at the institution have on several occasions appealed for donations from well-wishers to cater for the needs of patients.
Treasury has for the past few years been releasing inadequate funds to the hospital, making it difficult to efficiently run the institution.