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Residents fret over city`s preparedness to combat COVID-19

Bulawayo residents have expressed their discontent over the government’s handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment facilities in the city.

The residents said they are unsure if the government is sincere at all as the two identified isolation centres – Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital and Ekusileni Medical Centre – are still ill-equipped to handle coronavirus cases.

Reports revealed that the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) required US$300 000 for the complete refurbishment of Thorngrove to be able to house Covid-19 cases, of which a third or less would make the hospital able to admit the first 50 patients ‘comfortably.’

“Currently we don’t have that much,” said Assistant Director of Health Services, Dr Khulamuzi Nyathi to the Ministerial Taskforce on COVID-19 that visited Thorngrove Saturday.

The Ministerial Taskforce included Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Professor Paul Mavhima, who is in charge of social welfare and food distribution in the national taskforce; Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu who oversees the COVID-19 response in Matabeleland South; Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwira who oversees Matabeleland North while Minister of Local Government and Public Works, July Moyo who oversees Bulawayo was touring other parts of the hospital.

When Prof Mavhima asked what provisions Thorngrove Hospital had, Dr Nyathi said the hospital had few personal protective clothing but plenty disinfectant.

Sister in Charge of Thorngrove, Nomazulu Dlodlo added the institution had only received 400 space suits from the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) last Thursday.

However, before the sister in charge could continue, Prof Mavhima, asked the media to excuse them so they could discuss alone.

What raised the ire of the residents in Bulawayo was Minister Moyo’s sentiments who said if the city were to records positive cases, the patients would have to be transported to Wilkins Hospital in Harare since Thorngrove Hospital was not yet ready.

One academic from a local university said, “What people and the Government don’t realise is that this is not just about marginalisation of Bulawayo and Matabeleland. It’s about everything that is wrong in our state. There should be ready treatment centers in all our major cities – Harare, Bulawayo Kwekwe Gweru, Masvingo Mutare and also Victoria Falls because of its location.”

He added that border towns such as Beitbridge, Plumtree and Kariba should have isolation centers where people should be kept ready to go to nearest referral centers should they test positive.

Critical Studies analyst, Khanyile Mlotshwa, questioned why the city council had not renovated Thorngrove since it was a council hospital.

“If Thorngrove belongs to the council, the government is not obligated to bring it to shape. What has council done? The government can always turn back and say it has done something with Ekusileni. The council must not wait for the government but use MPs across parties to lobby. This is an emergency. The council must ask for donations from the same MPs and other private players and make it seem it was revamped by private individuals,” Mlotshwa suggested.

ZAPU national spokesperson, Iphithule Maphosa, urged the government to suspend politics and show leadership in dealing with this global pandemic.

“This government, in its insensitivity and blatant failure to provide leadership especially during the time of COVID-19 pandemic is now trying to hide behind arrogance when expected to lead.

“This is a time for authorities to fully capacitate Thorngrove Hospital so that it’s usable for COVID-19 patients. We also ask why Ekusileni was neglected all along, as it could not serve locals yet now it is to become a national isolation centre to cater for patients from other places?” he said.

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