Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
A 40-BED children’s ward at CURE Children’s Hospital of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo has started taking shape with the project set for completion within the next three months while the health facility is expecting a specialist surgeon who will conduct reconstructive plastic surgery.
CURE Children`s Hospital, the country’s only health institution offering free orthopaedic treatment to children under the age of 18 years, was officially opened by President Mnangagwa in May 2021. Upon the completion of the ward in April, the hospital double its capacity and the arrival of the plastic surgeon will further equip the Christian institution to offer additional services to children from all over Zimbabwe.
The plastic surgeon is arriving next week and will first undergo a probationary period before being fully licensed in Zimbabwe. CURE expects to offer reconstructive plastic surgery services from May this year. Since its inception, CURE has served more than 4 500 patients with conditions ranging from a neglected club foot, bowed legs, cleft lips, untreated burns, and other treatable bone-related disabilities. As a referral hospital, CURE receives children from all over Zimbabwe in the last quarter a third have been from the Matabeleland region, and another third from Harare province with the remainder drawn from the rest of the country.
A total of 1 110 children have undergone surgeries which under normal circumstances would cost between US$1 500 and US$3 000 each. The hospital hosts the only two pediatric orthopedic surgeons in the country. Orthopaedics is a branch of medicine that focuses on the care of the musculoskeletal system. This system is made up of muscles and bones as well as joints, ligaments and tendons.
Official statistics show that more than 370 000 children are living with treatable conditions such as neglected club-foot, bowed legs and knock knees in Zimbabwe. In an interview yesterday, CURE executive director, Mr Jonathan Simpson said although Bulawayo used to dominate CURE’s clientele base, the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions has seen the hospital attending to children from all over the country with some from as far as neighbouring countries like Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
“From the day President Mnangagwa officially opened this hospital, we have witnessed more than 4 500 children some of whom have undergone surgeries. We have admitted 1 000 so far and we continue growing as witnessed by the number of people who are in need of the services,” he said. “When we opened, we indicated to the President that we had plans to expand to match the demand and I am glad that we managed to honor that as we have embarked on an expansion project which will see us getting a 40 bedded children’s ward and offering reconstructive plastic surgery in the few months to come.”
Mr Simpson commended the effective referral system in Zimbabwe which has enabled CURE to manage bookings to avoid being overwhelmed. It is important for the public to know that we have very set days for clinics and set days for surgeries. 100 percent of our surgeries are elective. We do not offer emergency services.
Mr Simpson said they currently conduct about 20-24 surgeries per week and have significant waiting lists for various conditions are fully booked until July.
“We have also trained 816 healthcare workers from Zimbabwe including surgeons, doctors, and nurses in need of orthopedic experience. Some of which come from the UBH school of nursing to gain practical experience in treating children with these conditions. Conditions which they would otherwise read in a textbook,” he said.
“From the day we started, we knew that a time would come when we would need to expand, and I am glad to say the construction of a 40-bed ward is in progress. In April, we will be able to see more children and do about 40 surgeries per week.” Mr Simpson said that adding reconstructive plastic surgery to CURE’s services will enable the hospital to attend to children who suffered burns and those born with cleft lips and pallets.
“We will now be able to also look at introducing speech therapy, occupational therapy and nutritional care as a lot of children with cleft palates will be malnourished because they struggle to feed” Mr Simpson said all children who are admitted to CURE must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or an older sibling who is over 18 years of age. The hospital also provides free accommodation and meals for the caregivers as they are part of the healing process Since the Christian-based organization is non-profit, CURE gets donations from individuals, companies, and churches to sustain the services offered to members of the public.
Mr Simpson said sometimes they get calls, WhatsApp messages, and emails from parents in need of services which they respond to swiftly before booking them for consultation.
“We have a good relationship with the Ministry of Health and Child Care because we operate in a public-private partnership and therefore we are in liaison with district hospitals from where we get our clients from. Post-surgery, we need our clients to continue seeking services from their nearest health care providers,” he said.
Mr Simpson said CURE believes in engaging parents in the treatment of their children as the process is key to the ultimate healing of the patient.
He said they have also helped parents cope with mental health issues emanating from giving birth to children with disabilities as they sometimes face stigma and discrimination within families and communities. “We also want parents to come and play an active part in their child’s recovery so that they get the motivation to keep the child physically active even post-surgery,” he said. – @thamamoe