Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
GOVERNMENT has pledged to release €55 000 required to fix radiotherapy machines for cancer patients at Mpilo Central Hospital and $56 million for the completion of the installation of lifts and renovations of high dependency unit and gas piping for Covid-19 patients.

The machines at the Mpilo Central Hospital’s cancer unit for radiotherapy broke down in August due to overuse following the breakdown of machines at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.

Mpilo and Parirenyatwa hospitals are the only specialised centres for radiotherapy treatment in the country. Each machine costs US$1, 5 million. Mpilo Central Hospital’s cancer unit caters for people from all over the country.

Ingutsheni Central Hospital, the country’s only mental health referral institution for patients with mental health problems, was also identified as the southern region’s centralised mechanical workshop where all ambulances and other vehicles belonging to the Ministry of Health and Child Care would be serviced as part of decentralisation.

This was revealed by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga who also doubles as Health and Child Care Minister, during his familiarisation tour of Ekusileni Medical Centre, Mpilo Central Hospital, United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Ingutsheni Central Hospital yesterday.

VP Chiwenga paid tribute to health workers for playing a leading role as frontline workers in saving lives, saying Government was committed to addressing their concerns and improving conditions of service as part of efforts to ensure an effective health service delivery system.

Soon after he was briefed of the challenges at the four Bulawayo hospitals, VP Chiwenga pledged to address the challenges.

“I visited four hospitals to see the state of affairs and subsequently deal with the urgent challenges faced by the four health institutions. I was briefed on an urgent need for the repairing of radiotherapy machines at Mpilo Central Hospital cancer unit. At least 55 000 euros is required to fix the machines and that problem will be addressed on Monday,” he said.

VP Chiwenga said Treasury will also release $56 million for the installation of elevators and renovations of the high-dependency unit and gas piping for Covid-19 patients at Mpilo Central Hospital.

“We are aware that we have a mammoth task of looking after the southern region which comprises of five provinces, which include Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South and Bulawayo metropolitan. The population has also grown immensely more than what we had anticipated and therefore it means hospitals have to be expanded,” he said.

“We need to address the conditions of service for our health workers. When we are talking of conditions of service we are talking of accommodation, transport and staff cafeterias at workplaces.”

VP Chiwenga said the Health and Child Care Ministry is being restructured with a new sustainable funding model, for greater effectiveness, and a new work ethic for staff.

He said in streamlining and expanding the operations of the ministry, the remuneration of health workers has been put at the core of the shake-up.

The reorganisation also seeks to transform the work ethic of health professionals, which will be aligned to the oath of their profession.

VP Chiwenga said as part of the ongoing restructuring exercise in his ministry, there will be an ambulance division for both road and air services.

He said Ingutsheni Central Hospital will be the mechanical centre for the maintenance of Government hospitals’ fleet of vehicles in the southern region.

“The maintenance of our vehicles and ambulances in the southern region will be done at Ingutsheni where we have workshops that need to be revamped,” said VP Chiwenga.

He said part of virgin land at Mpilo Central Hospital will be utilised for the expansion of the hospital and developing accommodation units for staff while projects of nutritional gardens, horticulture, poultry and animal husbandry at Ingutsheni Central Hospital would be expanded to cover citrus farming.

VP Chiwenga urged other hospitals in the country to replicate the self-sufficiency farming model at Ingutsheni Central Hospital.

He said Government was tirelessly working towards the transformation of Ekusileni Medical Centre into a specialist research and training institution, which is being spearheaded by the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).

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 both foreigners and locals at affordable costs.

Medical tourism results when foreigners visit a country for medical services. Countries such as India and South Africa are among the countries that are benefitting from traffic from Zimbabwe as the countries have better facilities to treat most ailments and usually charge less.

“It is in this light, that we are gathered here today to witness the progress made in the transformation of Ekusileni Medical Centre, which was designated as one of the referral centres in Bulawayo. In the initial phase, Ekusileni Hospital will be operationalised as a National Covid-19 referral centre, in conformance with the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Government of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health and Child Care, National Social Security Authority (NSSA), National University of Science and Technology (Nust), Bulawayo City Council and I Am4 Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19 Trust,” said VP Chiwenga.

“In the second phase, the Cabinet approved that the hospital be utilised as a specialist, research and teaching institution after curbing the Covid-19 pandemic. This subsequent phase is to be run by the National University of Science and Technology and other stakeholders.”

VP Chiwenga commended non-governmental organisations, agencies and other stakeholders such as the I Am4 Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19 Trust, which donated an assortment of medical apparatus that include hospital beds, mattresses, bed-side cabinet, drip stands and dressing trolleys.

“I will ensure that the Iam4Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19 Trust, which donated an assortment of medical gets a rebate to nullify the amounts paid as duty, for the donated hospital equipment,” said VP Chiwenga. He said his ministry will assist in the facilitation of a customs duty exemption certificate for the donated medical equipment. — @mashnets