REVELATIONS that the orthopaedic centre at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) — the only such facility in south western Zimbabwe — is on the verge of collapse is a cause for serious concern.
According to a report we published last week, UBH chief executive officer Nonhlanhla Ndlovu said lack of staff development programmes was threatening the unique facility.
The orthopaedic centre manufactures prosthetics, artificial legs and neck braces, among other things.
Ndlovu said Zimbabwe stopped training orthopaedic technicians before the facility was moved to Tanzania in the 1980s as part of a Sadc initiative. UBH last trained an orthopaedic technician in 2008 and problems would arise when those working at the centre retire or leave employment for other reasons.
Ndlovu went on to say the centre had a staff complement of eight people, but only two — the head of department and another technician — were properly trained.
This means that should anything happen to the two, the centre’s future is sealed.
Zimbabwe has a very high number of people living with disabilities who receive help at this facility and its closure would be an indictment on President Robert Mugabe’s leadership.
Mugabe and Zanu PF inherited very good infrastructure at independence and instead of building on that, the facilities have been left to deteriorate.
Before we know it, Zimbabweans will be trekking to neighbouring countries for prosthetics, artificial legs and neck braces.
The government needs to do an audit of facilities at major hospitals such as UBH to enable it to respond adequately to challenges such as the one that has arisen at the orthopaedic centre.
It is a tragedy that the plight of the centre is coming at a time when there have been revelations that the government is spending thousands of dollars every month hiring top-of-the-range vehicles for chief executive officers (CEOs) of the city’s three major hospitals.
The money spent hiring a luxury vehicle for a single CEO annually can train dozens of technicians to run the UBH orthopaedic centre.
Mugabe’s government should get its priorities right.