Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE proposed transformation of Ekusileni Medical Centre into a specialist research and training institution is a breakthrough for the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) that wants to set up a medical school.
The university envisages Ekusileni becoming the crux of medical tourism that may generate much needed foreign currency for the country and provide essential services for locals at affordable costs.
Medical tourism results when foreigners visit a country for medical services.
India and South Africa are among the countries that are benefiting from traffic from Zimbabwe as the countries have better facilities to treat most ailments and usually charge less.
It is the university’s vision to ultimately have highly specialised cardiac, renal and respiratory care (surgical and medical), that is not being offered in the country, and a specialised research centre to tackle communicable and non-communicable diseases at Ekusileni Medical Centre.
Nust has been running a Faculty of Medicine since 2005 in collaboration with Mpilo Central Hospital.
Cabinet last month resolved that post Covid-19, Ekusileni Medical Centre, will be transformed into a specialist research and teaching hospital run by National Social Security Authority (Nssa) with Nust providing technical expertise.
The medical centre premises have been idle since it was constructed in 2001 before it was briefly operational for seven months in 2004 after it was equipped with obsolete equipment.
Ekusileni Medical Centre, a brainchild of late Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nkomo has had several false reopening episodes, since it closed down.
The state-of-the-art 200-bed hospital is being renovated to handle Covid-19 critical patients but Government is already planning beyond the pandemic due to shortcomings in the country’s health sector, characterised by lack of specialists’ doctors.
Nust has described the Cabinet position as a breakthrough that the university has always hoped for in line with its vision of positively impacting the community.
Nust acting communication and marketing director Mr Thabani Mpofu said the university was not surprised when Government took up the decision to make the institution a specialist research and training institution.
He said while Cabinet resolved to make the research and training institution, the recommendation came from stakeholders in Bulawayo who saw the gap that Nust could fill to provide specialised training.
In future, this could lead to medical tourism as has been done by countries such as India.
“The approval by Government to transform Ekusileni Medical Centre into a specialist research and teaching hospital is a breakthrough that Nust council, management and staff have been waiting for. The proposal to establish Ekusileni Research and Teaching Specialist (ERTS) Hospital was born out of the partnership among Nssa, the Government through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development, the City of Bulawayo, Nust and the I am for Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19 Trust,” said Mr Mpofu.
“To kick start the process of establishing ERTS in post Covid-19, the university has submitted an initial draft memorandum of understanding among stakeholders, operationalisation plan and formalisation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to the Government through the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development.”
He said since Nust launched the Faculty of Medicine in 2005, the university has wished to have a fully furnished medical school.
“The opportunity to run a specialist research and teaching hospital therefore resonates with our vision of being a world class university in science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and business development spearheading industrialisation locally and beyond,” he said.
Mr Mpofu said the specialist research and training institution is line with Father Zimbabwe’s dream.
“The nation is yearning for provision of specialist health services, some of which are not readily available in the country. These include highly specialised cardiac, renal and respiratory care (surgical and medical), currently not being offered in the country. A specialised research centre to tackle communicable and non-communicable diseases will also be set up at the ERTS Hospital,” said Mr Mpofu.
“Therefore, Nust, as a science-oriented university has grabbed the opportunity to provide such specialist services at an affordable cost to the nation.”
NSSA is also optimistic that post- Covid-19, Ekusileni will finally be put into good use.
NSSA marketing and communications executive Mr Tendai Mutseyekwa said the parastatal has commenced talks with Nust on how to operationalise the Cabinet resolution.
“The authority is working with the other stakeholders, particularly Nust, to put in place a model to operationalise the hospital. NSSA is an investor with the necessary capacity to fund, employ and/or partner with experienced hospital operators,” said Mr Mutseyekwa.
“The hospital will initially continue to be used as a Covid-19 isolation and treatment centre. The specialised medical institution will be established post Covid-19. From a NSSA perspective we intend to equip the hospital with modern state-of-the-art medical equipment that will be used for the training of specialist doctors.”
He said it was too early to speak about budget allocations towards the project.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira, said the transformation of Ekusileni Medical Centre into specialist research and training institution is futuristic and a breakthrough needed in the country’s health sector.
Prof Murwira said this would result in citizens accessing specialist health care at affordable prices.
At the moment scores of people have to seek external treatment for complicated illnesses with those who cannot afford dying quietly in their homes. — @nqotshili.