SW Radio Africa (London)

26 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Mpilo Hospital Authorities Appeal for Help

Management at Mpilo Central Hospital are appealing to Zimbabweans at home and abroad to step in and help revive the institution.

The hospital was once a symbol of hope to millions of Zimbabweans in Matebeleland and the Midlands provinces. However over the years, standards have deteriorated so much that only the very poor seek still seek treatment at the facility.

The situation is so bad that authorities have described it as 'pathetic', and falling far below "the basic standards expected of a health institution."

In a wide-ranging interview the hospital's chief executive officer, Dr Lawrence Mantiziba, told SW Radio Africa that a team has been put together to mobilise resources.

Mantiziba said management was now looking outside government for a solution to Mpilo's persistent challenges, and appealed to individuals and the private sector to assist in cash or kind.

He said: "We badly need everyone's support to revive Mpilo and to rehabilitate most of the hospital infrastructure."

Challenges at the facility include closed patient wards, leaking roofs on most buildings, a critical shortage of bed linen (with only 40 pairs of bed sheets available for 600 beds), as well as broken down washing machines and incinerators.

The hospital also needs ambulances, water booster pumps, a new boiler, and essential repairs to its dilapidated dental unit, doctors' quarters, the student nurses' quarters, staff accommodations, warehouse and the pharmacy.

Authorities say at least $5 million is required to improve standards at Mpilo.

Built in 1957 Mpilo Hospital was meant to cater for Bulawayo urban, which had a population of 100,000 at the time. Since then, this figure has grown to almost one million people. The hospital is also a referral centre for patients from Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, the Midlands, and Masvingo. This means serving a combined population of about six million people.

Despite promises by the country's leadership to speed up the process of rehabilitating the country's health institutions, not much has been done, with the Treasury constantly disbursing less than the allocated funds to hospitals such as Mpilo.

In 2012, the facility only received $1.1 million out of the $4.1 million the Treasury had promised.

In 2011 only $1 million was disbursed to the hospital out of the $4.4 million allocated in the national budget. At the time, Mpilo required about $12 million to meet its obligations.

Cont Mhlanga, renowned playwright and founder of Bulawayo-based Amakhosi Theatre Productions, said the situation at Mpilo mirrors the general decline of Zimbabwe's health sector.

Mhlanga blamed bad political leadership, and said reviving institutions such as Mpilo requires stamping out corruption within government.

"At the moment politicians are more concerned about consolidating their positions rather than prioritising people's health," he said, adding: "We need is to fix our politics first, and then the economy will improve, and important sectors such as health will be allocated adequate budgets to enable them to function."

Mhlanga said even with vast mineral resources, it is unlikely that the Treasury will have enough funds for the health sector, given the 'self-serving nature' of those who control these resources.

Zimbabwe has the largest diamond reserves in the world, the second largest platinum reserves in the world, and also boasts deposits of gold, coal, granite, nickel, copper, zinc, limestone, phosphate, clay and dolomite, among other resources.

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