Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
FOR the first time this year, Zimbabwe surpassed the Abuja Declaration which directs African countries to channel 15 percent of the budget to the health sector.
This was in fulfilment of Government’s promise of massive improvement in health infrastructure, accessible and affordable medicines; free medical care for cancer patients; at least one hospital per district, improved health services in resettlement areas, reduction of hospital fees by 50 percent and pursuing the health for all.
For Matabeleland region, the highlights of that delivery include the reopening of Ekusileni Health Centre in Bulawayo, the brainchild of the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo which was closed 20 years ago due to obsolete equipment.
The hospital which was declared a Covid-19 centre when the global pandemic first hit Zimbabwe was finally opened this year.
When tragedy hit Mpilo Central Hospital doctors in May this year, Government swiftly responded and injected funds to refurbish all dilapidated residences in the country’s second largest hospital which serves the southern region.
For the first time in years, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces are set to have their own provincial hospitals to decongest Mpilo and the United Bulawayo Hospital which cater for the provinces at the moment. Lupane Provincial Hospital is nearing completion while a new Gwanda Provincial Hospital will be catered for in the 2022 budget.
There have also been legislative reforms, with Zimbabwe making great progress in the decriminalisation of willful transmission of HIV as part of efforts to end the stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV infection.
Through an amendment in the Marriages Bill 2019, Parliament is seeking to repeal Section 79 of the Criminal Code which will modernise and humanise the country’s HIV response.
Part of reforms which have been implemented by the Second Republic also include the amendment of the Public Health Act to allow professionals in the health sector to be considered for top administrative posts in Government.
Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has put Zimbabwe among the top country’s that have managed to contain the virus.
Government has secured 20 million doses, enough for the country to reach herd immunity.
In an interview, the Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro said the Second Republic was committed to improving health care services including health care workers working conditions.
“We remain consistent in ensuring that we build more hospitals for our people while refurbishing the old buildings in our public institutions. So, we are working on the two provincial hospitals in Matabeleland and soon we will ensure that every district in this country has a hospital so that our people access services from where they are,” he said.
“We have also funded the refurbishment of some district hospitals whose buildings are old and can longer service its purpose in providing quality health care.”
Dr Mangwiro said part of ongoing projects is to ensure that communities have health facilities within reach so that people do not walk long distances seeking health care.
Community Working Group on Health director Mr Itai Rusike said the Second Republic has worked hard to address some challenges that people face in terms of access to healthcare.
He said despite challenges that have been brought by Covid-19, the country managed to respond swiftly as seen by the success of the ongoing vaccination project.
“Zimbabwe needs to be commended for the good progress with its Covid-19 national vaccination roll-out programme that is being highly commended within the region as the government has substantially used its own domestic resources to purchase the vaccines,” said Mr Rusike.
He said there is urgent need to ensure sustained Covid-19 vaccine literacy and awareness activities to increase the uptake of vaccines so that the country achieves herd immunity.
Mr Rusike called for the establishment of more health facilities in communities as some members of the public still walk over 30 kilometres to the nearest health facilities to seek treatment especially in farming and resettlement areas.
Bulawayo Minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Cde Judith Ncube said livelihoods have been changed through the work of the Second Republic which also renovated the Old Bartley Memorial Block at the United Bulawayo Hospitals which is now being used a Covid-19 centre.
“We are happy with what is happening in our hospitals which were neglected for the longest time. The activity happening everywhere gives us great joy.
The President had to come himself to check on the Mpilo hospital doctors when they lost their property in an inferno in May, we need such leaders,” she said.
“The reopening of Ekusileni means a lot to us as people of the city of Bulawayo.
Opening of this hospital has been long overdue and we thank the President who saw it fit that the institution should finally start operating. The hospital won’t only offer services to the people of Bulawayo but the entire nation.” @thamamoe