By Nqobile Tshili
Zimbabweans returning from South Africa via Beitbridge Border Post will undergo a mandatory 21-day quarantine at the defunct Beitbridge Rainbow Hotel while Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo is now the main Covid-19 isolation centre for the southern part of the country.
Beitbridge Border Post is one of the busiest ports of entry in Southern Africa, connecting Zimbabwe and South Africa to other African countries. Beitbridge Rainbow Hotel, with 136 rooms, was shut down in 2016 after posting successive losses.
Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital had been selected as the isolation centre for Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Midlands and Masvingo provinces.
But the council-run hospital has limited resources and needs a major facelift and equipment. Ekusileni Medical Centre is a state-of-the-art hospital although it has not been operational.
Government, the private sector and some individuals have stepped up efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The country today is on the third day of a 21-day lockdown aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19.
In a statement yesterday, National Social Security Authority (NSSA) acting general manager Mr Arthur Manase said to complement Government’s efforts, it has availed both Beitbridge Rainbow Hotel and Ekusileni Medical Centre to fight Covid-19.
“The former Beitbridge Rainbow Hotel will be used as a transit isolation centre to cater for returning residents from South Africa. This means every Zimbabwean who passes through the Beitbridge border post from South Africa will be quarantined for 21 days at the NSSA facility as a precautionary measure.
“Zimbabwe’s southern neighbour is also battling to contain Covid-19 with an infection rate of over 1 000. NSSA has also availed its Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo for accommodation of patients undergoing treatment for Covid-19,” said Mr Manase.
He said the authority has donated funds to repair the Intensive Care Unit ventilator at Mutare Central Hospital.
Mr Manase said NSSA will also be providing a once off bonus payment to cushion pensioners.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Ministry Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana revealed through microblogging site Twitter, the national taskforce’s decision to make Ekusileni Medical Centre the major Covid-19 isolation centre for the southern part of the country.
In an interview, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said while the decision was made at national level the recommendation came from locals.
“The decision was taken in realisation of the grave situation we are facing. If the worst comes to worst, we need to identify such institutions so that we really cater for our people in a dignified manner.
“The decision to make Ekusileni a centre did not come from the national taskforce but it was a recommendation from the Bulawayo community so that we can handle the situation on the ground,” said Minister Ncube.
She said Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital will still admit patients as Bulawayo needs all the facilities to fight Covid-19.
The decision to make Ekusileni Medical Centre, the major isolation centre for Bulawayo, will enable Government and development partners to capacitate the unutilised institution.
Bulawayo City Council’s Director for Health Services Dr Edwin Sibanda said he had not been briefed about Ekusileni Medial Centre taking over from Thorngrove Hospital.
He said Bulawayo needs to get all the three hospitals including United Bulawayo Hospitals’ (UBH) Richard Morris be equipped to handle any eventualities.
“All institutions must be made ready to receive patients because we don’t know how many patients we would have. Should we go for Ekusileni only, we might be found wanting, should we go for Thorngrove alone, we may be found wanting again. The ideal situation is we prepare all three, that is the plan,” said Dr Sibanda. The Chronicle