BY SILAS NKALA
EKUSILENI Medical Centre in Bulawayo still requires US$3,7 million for it to be ready to handle coronavirus cases and the city’s residents are taking the lead in ensuring the dream becomes a reality.
Government last month announced that the institution built in honour of late vice president Joshua Nkomo, had been designated as a Covid-19 isolation and treatment centre.
But almost a month later, Ekusileni is still yet to be opened for Covid-19 patients despite the fact that Bulawayo had the second highest number of cases in the country as of Friday with 12 people having tested positive.
A group of business people, health experts, academics, civic organisations and nongovernmental organisation coalescing under the #Iam4Byo Fighting Covid-19 initiative’ are mobilising resources to ensure the hospital can take in at least 50 patients within the next two weeks.
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, the #Iam4Byo Fighting Covid-19 chairperson, told Sunday Southern Eye, said they were forced to act after a realisation that the city of over 600 000 people had no proper facilities to handle coronavirus cases.
“Our team of doctors, who fall under the Biomedical Response cluster did an analysis of the potential impact of an outbreak in Bulawayo and it was clear that in the worst case scenario the city would need 600 hospital beds,” Sibanda said.
The Bulawayo City Council run Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital only had 30 beds, although the facility has a capacity for 130 beds.
She said Ekusileni, which has been lying idle since it was briefly opened in 2004, was identified as the most suitable facility to fill in the gap.
“This being a brownfield project, a lot is required to ensure Covid-19 readiness,” Sibanda said.
“As you can imagine, we are starting from scratch.
“From doing assessments of the facilities that are required to doing inspections of the infrastructure that needs to be put in place.”
A target of between six and eight weeks has been set to ensure at least the facility has 50 beds before it is opened for coronavirus patients, but the ultimate objective is to have 200 beds, she said.
“We are relying on pledges and donations to meet this target and a call for assistance has been sent to the local and international community,” Sibanda said.
“We require approximately US$3,7 million to fully equip the centre and we are calling on well-wishers to help us meet this target.
“So far we are grateful that the facility has been availed for use and ours is to make sure that it is fully equipped.
“We are also grateful that donations have been coming through from various stakeholders and we are optimistic that the centre will be equipped in time to accommodate patients needing access to the centre.”
Busisa Moyo, who chairs the #Iam4Byo Fighting Covid-19, said they were struggling to mobilise personal protective equipment (PPE) for isolation and treatment centres in the city.
“We are looking for level three protective clothing for our caregivers, for nurses to make sure that they are protected, helmets, masks, full level three consisting of boots, overshoes and complete level three kits, so that they are not afraid to take in patients,” Moyo said in an interview.
He said PPEs were also needed for staff at Mpilo Hospital where Covid-19 tests are carried out for Bulawayo patients.