Villagers offer labour to  speed up Manama revamp A worker (right) refurbishing the Manama Hospital maternity ward

Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Features Editor

Agentle breeze blew across parts of Manama Mission Hospital yesterday, lifting a piercing smell of freshly cut wood which lingered in the air.

Amid the stillness were cowbells tolling within earshot.

Nurses in pearly white uniforms shuttled back and forth going about their duties while a few expectant mothers at the hospital’s waiting shelter passed time under the shade of trees.

Although it’s seemingly business as usual at Manama Mission Hospital, it’s hard to ignore the stacks of bricks and timber piled within the hospital premises.

The once sterile maternity and female wards have become a construction site for close to a year following a violent storm which extensively damaged infrastructure and buildings at the hospital late last year.

It is dusty and dirty with leftover building materials randomly strewn all over the place.

In January, the roof was completed with expectations of putting up the ceilings, electricals, painting, flooring, plumbing and other repairs but work has continually stalled with officials citing the unavailability of funds to complete the project.

A Chronicle news crew visited the hospital yesterday and observed that in addition to a new roof, some electrical work was in progress with ceilings in some sections having been put up.

As renovations are in progress, female patients have had to share space with patients from other wards.

Ms Melokuhle Sibanda (18) from Mkhaliphe Village, Gwanda District, gave birth to a baby girl at the hospital a week ago and says sharing space with patients from other wards was stressful.

“I started experiencing labour pains late on a Friday night and gave birth the following morning. All went well and the nurses in the delivery room took great care of me. The challenge was at the wards. Sometimes you would be coming from taking a bath and cross paths with a male patient coming from the toilet or something. It was quite an uncomfortable experience,” said Ms Sibanda who had to stay at the hospital’s waiting home for expectant mothers for a month before she could bring baby Amahle into the world.

She said since the female and maternity wards were destroyed by the storm and closed for renovations, women had to share space with patients from other wards.

“You’d be constantly looking over your shoulder in case you bumped into a man. We need the Government to step in so that the female ward is repaired speedily. This will also free up space in the other wards so that patients can have a comfortable stay,” said Ms Sibanda.

At around noon, as Ms Sibanda and her grandmother waited for a Green Horse bus coming from Bulawayo so that they could take baby Amahle home, another villager from the Manama area, Gogo Ruth Magadi said: “The hospital is for us all but we’re not seeing much progress where the renovations are concerned. The bricks are there; the timber is there but we’re still not seeing the progress.”

Money – Image taken from Pixabay

She said whenever building material is bought, hope is ignited that repairs would be completed speedily.

“We want our hospital to be developed and we’re hopeful that we’ll see that development soon. We want our hospital to look beautiful again,” said Gogo Magadi.

Another villager, Mr Simon Mpofu, said the relevant stakeholders needed to engage the community to provide affordable labour for the completion of the repairs.

“The renovations have taken way too long and we’re not sure why. As a community, we’re willing to come and work here and see the project to completion. The building materials you see around have been here for a while now but there doesn’t seem to be much movement. To me, it means that there could be a shortage of labour. We’re here and willing to do the work,” said Mr Mpofu.

Media personality Dr Omphile Marupi, who was born at the hospital, co-ordinated a fundraising drive under the banner of Friends of Manama last year to help repair the health facility.

Friends of Manama brought together teachers, academics, businesspeople, politicians, service chiefs and ordinary people associated with the hospital in one way or the other.

The government allocated $28 million for repairs and upgrading of Manama Hospital after noting that the institution’s infrastructure does not meet modern healthcare standards.

The infrastructure damage at the hospital is estimated at US$40 000.

Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director Dr Rudo Chikodzore said hospital staff have had to move patients around to make room for the renovations.

Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director Dr Rudo Chikodzore

“The hospital has continued to function despite the renovations. When renovations are being done, you move people around and accommodate them in the available space. The hospital is a mission institution and there was a team which was formed to oversee the renovations which include Public Works, who are the main players in terms of infrastructure,” said Dr Chikodzore.

Turning to the aspect of patients taking a strain as a result of sharing limited space, Dr Chikodzero said: “From the onset, work has continued. It’s been business as usual.”

Treasury initially released $8 million to repair the damaged infrastructure at the hospital but later availed more funds to upgrade the entire hospital infrastructure, which is in a poor state.

Matabeleland South Provincial Public Works director Mr Sijabuliso Ncube said the project had stalled several times during the course of the year due to the unavailability of adequate funds.

“Carpenters are currently being mobilised to attend to some parts of the roofing before the onset of the rainy season. The plumbing and electricals are being done,” said Mr Ncube.

He said the project had taken longer than expected to complete because work was being done as funds were availed.

Matabeleland South Provincial Public Works Director Mr Sijabuliso Ncube

“The money trickles in in small amounts so whenever we get a bit of it, we attend to whatever needs to be attended to. We’re working on the project based on the money that comes in for it, that’s the challenge,” said Mr Ncube.

The strong winds and heavy rains which hit the Manama area also left the hospital without electricity after solar panels were damaged, affecting water storage tanks and telecommunication cables, resulting in the suspension of critical services.

The suspended services include the expanded programme of immunisation (EPI), maternity delivery services, postnatal care services, isolation of Covid-19-positive mothers, antenatal care services and integrated management of neonatal, childhood illnesses and mortuary services.

Four departments were extremely affected leaving the hospital operating with just four wards, which accommodate all the admitted patients.

Manama Mission Hospital was built in 1939 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) using farm bricks and its roofing was a combination of corrugated iron and asbestos.

It is located 85km south of Gwanda town and has a catchment population of 82 500 based on the 1992 census. The hospital mainly serves the population of Gwanda South and Beitbridge West.

It also acts as a referral hospital for other parts of Beitbridge District, Maphisa, Kezi, parts of Mberengwa and Botswana. – @Yolisswa

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