Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
DESPITE its picturesque view, manicured lawns, the stunning elegance of its expansive wards complemented by world class facilities, Ekusileni Medical Centre remained virtually a white elephant for almost 20 years.
With a lustrous outward, a green roof and polished brown bricks, the imposing Ekusileni Medical Centre, which is nestled at the corner of Cecil Avenue and 12th Avenue Extension, presented a rather wrong impression to passersby.
It presented a picture of a functional facility.
Since its closure in 2004, the health facility, a brainchild of the late Vice-President Dr Joshua Nkomo, experienced a number of false starts.
Several efforts to reopen the institution constantly hit a snag largely due to poor funding under the previous administration.
However, Tuesday July 27 marked a new dawn for the hospital when it opened its doors to the public for the first time in 17 years, thanks to the advent of the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa whose commitment to massive investment in the health sector is evident.
Under Vision 2030, Zimbabwe is targeting upgrading health provision leading to an improvement in peoples’ lives.
Before the coming in of the Second Republic in 2017, many citizens flocked to international destinations in search of quality healthcare as systems had deteriorated in the country.
Upon its opening, Ekusileni Medical Centre admitted two Covid-19 patients. The hospital has been declared a national Covid-19 centre.
The opening of the hospital will ease the pressure on other isolation centres in the city which were fast running out of bed space.
When Chronicle news crew visited the institution yesterday, it was abuzz with activity and medical staff were on their toes ready for any eventuality.
The hospital’s acting chief executive officer Dr Absolom Dube was all smiles as he narrated the long and rewarding journey.
“Honestly, it hasn’t been an easy road to find ourselves where we are now, but all the same we have reached this far through the support of Government, private sector, well-wishers both local and in the diaspora and church leaders,” he said.
“They managed to come in and put their hands to enable us to get everything that we wanted for us to reach that level where we are now admitting Covid-19 patients.”
Dr Dube said over the past one year, they have been working on addressing some of the pertinent issues.
“I am glad we managed to satisfy the inspectors from Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe and Health Professions Authority. They came in over the last few weeks and they indicated that they were quite happy with our level of preparedness although we are going to take patients up to the level of mild to moderate cases,” he said.
However, Dr Dube said their specialist wards providing intensive care are yet to meet the required minimum standards.
“Our ICU and HDU (high dependency unit) are not yet fulfilling the minimum standards that are required as well as the staff requirements. We also have the limitation in terms of our bed capacity, which can’t go beyond 20,” he said.
“We have 70 beds, but the accessories that are required for us to be able to manage patients with optimum quality, are falling short. With the staff that we have, we can’t effectively manage more than 20 patients.”
Dr Dube said for very severe Covid-19 patients, they will continue to rely on the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) for management.
“In the next few weeks or so, we expect to receive more equipment purchased through different stakeholders to scale up our operations. We have 12 doctors on site and we also have specialist doctors who are coming in through the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) and these are lecturers teaching at the medical school,” he said.
“We have 24 nurses and we have been promised by Treasury through the Health Services Board that they will improve our staff establishment particularly now that we have patients so that we reach our maximum capacity of handling 200 patients at any given time.”
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said the opening of Ekusileni will help decongest Mpilo Central Hospital and UBH and ease pressure on medical staff in those hospitals.
“The hospital is now admitting Covid-19 patients and that means we are now able to decongest Mpilo Central Hospital and UBH and ease pressure on medical staff in those institutions. We are grateful to the Government and His Excellency President Mnangagwa, in particular, for facilitating the opening of Ekusileni Medical Centre,” she said.
“This facility hasn’t been operating for several years and through His Excellency, the President’s efforts, he made prioritised its opening.”
Minister Ncube said the success was a result of collective effort from various partners.
“We also thank other stakeholders such as churches, the private sector and diaspora community for the role they played in complementing Government efforts to realise this dream. This hospital will play a significant role in terms of admitting Covid-19 patients in Bulawayo and the entire southern region,” she said.
Minister Ncube said the delay in the reopening of the hospital was due to some health protocols that had to be followed and the issue of water.
“We wanted to drill enough boreholes so that the hospital doesn’t run out of water. I would like to commend the donor community who saw the importance of health institutions and chipped in with equipment such as beds, stoves, laundry machines among others,” she said.
“It is the President’s vision for the country to create health institutions which are of world class and igniting hope to patients and I am glad Ekusileni is one of those centres.” — @mashnets.