Mashudu Netsianda / Oliver Kazunga, Senior Reporters
THE private sector is mobilising funds to set up coronavirus testing and isolation centres across the country to complement Government efforts in the fight against the spread of the deadly global pandemic.
In Bulawayo, the private sector initiative, which has been underway the beginning of this week, is focusing on capacitating Ekusileni Medical Centre, Thorngrove Hospital and Mater Dei Hospital into fully equipped testing, isolation and treatment centres for Covid-19.
Businesses operating under the auspices of the Matabeleland Chamber of Industries (MCI) in conjunction with individuals and companies in the health sector and churches are mobilising the resources.
United Refineries’ chief executive officer Mr Busisa Moyo, who is one of the coordinators from the private sector said their aim is to partner Government in the fight against Covid-19 in Bulawayo.
“We decided to come together, not only as Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, but we are also reaching out to all other business membership organisations as well as other stakeholders that include churches, the Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs, private doctors, pharmacists and well-wishers to partner Government through mobilising funds to help equip Thorngrove (Infectious Diseases) Hospital, Ekusileni Medical Centre and Mater Dei Hospital and capacitate them to become points of testing, isolation, and treatment for Covid-19,” he said.
“We have got members in the Diaspora who have already contacted us, saying they would like to participate in this initiative. So, right now, we are seized with working the budgets so that we can then mobilise the private sector.”
Mr Moyo said they are in the process of opening an Ecocash and bank account for donations.
He said they were planning ahead of possible cases of the global pandemic.
“We are doing the best we can to move as swift as possible to capacitate the city in fighting the pandemic. We don’t know how many beds will be needed but we are going to have a starting point of creating enough beds for patients to recover,” he said.
“Our preparation is roughly 100 beds in Thorngrove, but I am not aware of the capacity there but if we can get in a total 100 beds fully equipped that would be good.”
Mr Moyo said they have since contacted their colleagues in Harare and they are working in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Child Care for the supply of oxygen among other requirements.
“All this is coming to support the private sector initiative as Covid-19 is going to affect us, our workers, our relatives and that is why we couldn’t just sit back and fold our hands. We just want to be prepared as a city so that Bulawayo doesn’t perish,” he said.
Mr Moyo said within their private sector domain, they have also created another group that will look at the social and economic impact in the event of a full lockdown to ensure that issues to do with food, transport and logistics are addressed.
“This initiative will have the difference that we will have isolation centres. Remember that a lot of people right now are self-isolating in homes, which is not ideal, so we want to have places where we can be tested, isolated, treated and we prevent the spread of the disease,” he said.
Bulawayo City Council director of health services Dr Edwin Sibanda said in view of the sorry state of Thorngrove Hospital, they were looking at a budget of US$300 000 to transform the institution into a world class facility.
“The money will be used to erect proper structures and purchase ventilators among other equipment so that it matches world class standards,” he said.
Dr Sibanda said the hospital, which was built in the 1940s, has some wings which have no toilets.
“Two wings do not have toilets and we need four ventilators as a starting point. As council we are working together with a private player who wants to partner Government in setting up isolation centres in Ekusileni, Thorngrove and Mater Dei Hospitals,” he said.
“Basically, we are looking at strengthening the private sectors as well as Government by looking at the needs of the three institutions in case the situation gets out of hand. We are looking at both immediate and long-term solutions in light of Covid-19.”
At Mater Dei Hospital, medical aid companies in Matabeleland are mobilising funds to complement the hospital in renovating one of its wings, which is being turned into an isolation unit to manage Covid-19 among other serious cases. Bulawayo has no other properly equipped facility, which has the capacity to adequately handle cases of corona virus.
Medical Aid Society of Central Africa (Masca) chief executive officer Mr Douglas Bramsen said the Mater Dei Hospital project, requires at least US$65 000 to secure four ventilators for its isolation unit.
“Mater Dei Hospital is working on turning an outer building at Mater Dei into an isolation unit to deal with coronavirus cases. As major medical aids in Matabeleland region we are supporting them financially to speed up the project, which will cost about $500 000 to complete the renovations. We also need US$65 000 to secure at least four ventilators, which are desperately needed.” he said.
“There is also a private initiative which is working hard to equip other Ekusileni Medical Centre and Thorngrove Hospital so that they are turned into isolation centres in Bulawayo to cater for a large number of people who would have contracted corona virus.”
Mr Bramsen said the project is a private initiative, which is being implemented through relevant Government departments.
Masca board chairperson, Mr Gavin Stephens, who also chairs the Mater Dei Hospital finance committee, said the project, which began 10 days ago, started with the establishment of medical protocols and the identification of a programme of action. He said Masca is accelerating its claim payments to Mater Dei to expedite the project and urged medical aid subscribers settle their debts to enable the hospital to do much more.
Mr Stephens said the ongoing work on the Mater Dei Hospital isolation unit will be completed within a week.
“This facility will assist the community of Bulawayo in a big way. When suspected cases arrive at the hospital, they will be screened before admission so that no other person at the hospital is infected.
“If the hospital suspects that you could be infected with covid-19, they will then implement the national medical protocol for your protection, meaning you will have to be hospitalised or taken to the isolation unit in the event that the situation is critical,” he said.
“There is already a suspected case isolation reception separate from main Casualty while a bigger area is currently being renovated. Within a week, there will be a separate isolated Covid-19 reception at Mater Dei so that no victims go to casualty and this is being renovated now.”
Mr Stephens said they needed to buy uniforms for doctors and nurses who will be working at the isolation unit at a cost of R30 000. He appealed to well-wishers to donate to the hospital in both cash and kind.
Plans are also underway to make use of facilities at St Anne’s Hospital and Arundel Hospital in Harare while in Victoria Falls, residents have already resolved to pool resources to set up an isolation centre.
In Harare, Sakunda Holdings has received the green light to upgrade and use the identified facilities for the next six months.
Under the agreement, Sakunda Holdings will be expected to set up specialised healthcare facilities, train and equip healthcare practitioners, avail equipment and medication required for effective control of Covid-19.
The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo on Wednesday told Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) that the private sector was free to set up Covid-19 facilities separate from the main hospitals for infection control provided they abide by recommended guidelines.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, who was part of the ZTN live broadcast panel said there has been positive response from the private sector to complement Government’s national response. — @mashnets @okazunga