Mashudu Netsianda, Nqobile Tshili and Andile Tshuma
PUBLIC institutions in Bulawayo, mostly schools, hospitals as well as old people and children’s homes, have been found wanting in terms of adopting essential precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited schools, central hospitals and institutions for the elderly and children as well as bus ranks.
At a funeral in Cowdray Park, before eating, mourners were in a queue to wash their hands using water without soap or sanitising liquid.
Information gathered from the field visits indicated that there was sloppiness and lack of preparedness in as far as dealing with the risk of the deadly coronavirus is concerned.
However, this has largely been attributed to inadequate resources at most institutions.
The news crew first visited Mpilo Central Hospital where the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care was touring the hospital and found no hand sanitisers at around 9am.
However, the sanitisers were later availed within a short space of time after Nkayi South National Assembly member Cde Stars Mathe took the hospital’s management to task.
The sanitisers were, however, placed at entrances, without sensitising anyone on their use.
The news crew observed that several people were just walking into the hospital without using the sanitisers.
At the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), there were no hand sanitisers for patients and visitors, but one was provided for the parliamentary portfolio committee members at the hospital boardroom.
UBH chief executive officer Mrs Nonhlalnhla Ndlovu said the hospital only had 10 by 750ml bottles of hand sanitiser for the whole hospital, but they were awaiting a consignment of 200 bottles from Natpharm.
“We are waiting for 200 bottles from Natpharm here in Bulawayo. They said they could not dispatch them to us yet as they have not yet been entered into their system so we are hoping to get them soon,” she said.
Mrs Ndlovu said UBH had not yet received any protective equipment and had only four kits that had been provided for Ebola when there was an outbreak of the disease in Central Africa in 2017.
The hospital initially had seven kits before using three.
At the bustling area near Tredgold Buildings, which was teeming with hundreds of commuters who were jostling to board Zupco buses and kombis, it was evident that basic hygienic norms were not being adhered to as evidenced by some people shaking hands and hugging each other.
Some commuters could be seen pushing and elbowing each other as everyone rushed for a seat.
The news crew also visited Percy Ibbotson Rehabilitation Centre in Luveve, as well as Mzilikazi and Mpopoma high schools.
Although the schools have suspended assembly, toilets did not have disinfectants and were dirty.
“We are talking of a school with an enrolment of 2 000 children and honestly, where do we get money to buy hand sanitisers to cater for such a huge number of pupils. We are, however, encouraging pupils to practise personal hygiene both at school and home,” said a teacher at Mpopoma High School.
At Thembiso Children’s Home and Entembeni Old People’s Home in Luveve suburb, there was, however, tangible evidence of efforts to curb coronavirus as the Chronicle news crew observed liquid soaps placed in restrooms.
“Health is a top priority at our institution and we are aware of the deadly Covid-19. As part of our measures to curb the spread of the disease, we are encouraging both staff and children to practise personal hygiene and we have also put disinfectants such as liquid soap in our toilets,” said Mr Busiso Maphala, the superintendent of Thembiso Children’s Home.
The home has a total number of 33 children kept at the institution.
Entembeni Old People’s Home matron, Sister Happy Ndlovu, they did not have sanitisers and authorities said there were facing funding challenges.
“We are trying to improve in terms of the general cleanliness of our environment and surroundings, particularly in light of coronavirus. As an institution that looks after the elderly who are more vulnerable to diseases. We have to make sure that we maintain the highest standards of hygiene despite the financial challenges,” she said.
“Some of the major challenges we are facing is that we are not getting enough funding from the donor community to buy things like hand sanitisers among other disinfectants, which are essential for hygienic purposes.”
The institution has 44 elderly people.
Similar challenges are also faced at Ekuphumuleni Geriatric Nursing Home in Mzilikazi suburb.
At local hotels, the news crew observed that they were providing sanitisers to visitors.
At Hotel Inn in Bulawayo, the security guard stationed at the entrance gate was sanitising guests’ hands and another sanitiser was also provided at the front office.
At Rainbow Hotel the sanitiser is placed at the door and hotel staff encouraged guests to use it as they go in.
Most pharmacies and shops did not have sanitizers in the Central Business District.
City medical expert, Dr William Legg said the best way for people to protect themselves from Covid-19 is to follow basic hygienic practices such as washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding close contact with people who might be infected as well as cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
He said plastic masks were not helpful in terms of preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Dr Legg, however, explained that masks were more effective when worn by sick people to prevent respiratory droplets from escaping.
“In my opinion, as a medical expert, I am saying masks are not a good idea because they don’t stop the spread of the disease. In actual fact, they might even habour the virus as the moisture of the cloth doesn’t prevent air from coming out,” he said.
“Coronavirus is a very bad flu and it affects the lungs and causes damage. It is contagious as it comes from touching not from air droplets. In Zimbabwe we don’t have a huge problem for now, but to prevent it we need ordinary, excellent personal hygiene and common sense.”
Dr Legg urged people to keep their surroundings clean as well as avoid mixing with crowds and people with flulike symptoms to self-isolated themselves.
The symptoms of Covid-19 infections can range from very mild to severe respiratory illness and may include fever, cough and shortness of breath. These symptoms can be very similar to those for influenza hence making it difficult to distinguish without clinical testing.