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Ekusileni under renovations

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EKUSILENI Medical Centre in Bulawayo is currently undergoing extensive renovations that are set to be completed by today with officials yet again indicating the hospital would be operational before the end of year.

NQOBILE BHEBHE
CHIEF REPORTER

The hospital has been a large white elephant despite briefly opening its doors in 2004.

Ekusileni opened in January 2004, but was shut down six months later for unexplained reasons.

It was promptly closed after it was discovered equipment worth millions of dollars acquired by the Zimbabwean Health Care Trust (ZHCT) was obsolete.

ZCHT was renting the medical centre from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).

The upmarket 369-bed facility was built in honour of veteran nationalist and the late Vice-President Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo with funding from NSSA.

Several reopening dates have been pronounced, but nothing happened.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Nicholas Goche last Wednesday told the National Assembly that “assurances have been given that this time there will be no hiccups towards opening the hospital”.

“NSSA is currently rehabilitating the hospital building and the minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has visited the site twice, the latest being on the 18th July 2014,” Goche said.

“Meetings have been held with members of the ZHCT which is responsible for the operating company at this hospital. Assurances have been given that this time there will be no hiccups towards opening the hospital.

“Rehabilitation of the hospital is due to be completed by the 15th of September 2014. The contractor went on site in mid-June 2014 and there is noticeable progress in the rehabilitation of the building. From discussions and agreed positions, the hospital is set to open before the end of 2014,” he added.

On Wednesday, a Southern Eye crew visited the hospital and witnessed scores of workers busy doing renovation works.

Some hall partitions were being knocked down, drainage works attended to and walls painted.

Earlier this year, Parliament called for the eviction of a team of doctors claiming ownership of the facility saying they had failed to operate the institution.

Goche said the hospital ownership issue had not been resolved, but NSSA is the owner of the building.

“NSSA owns 100% shares of the Ekusileni Medical Centre Property Company, thus owning 100% of the hospital which is the only asset of the property company,” he said.

The health facility was initiated as a joint venture between ZHCT and Netcare, a South African healthcare group that provides private healthcare in both South Africa and the United Kingdom.

A super structure development fund was set up which saw NSSA, ZHCT and the Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) becoming partners as the super structure developers.

However, the MIPF later pulled out of the project and ZHCT failed to contribute towards the centre construction leaving NSSA to develop it on its own and become the sole owner of the property.

Development of the centre commenced in July 2000 and by October of that year, 60% of the building was complete, after which equipment was supposed to be provided by ZHCT through a Spanish loan valued at $13 million. However, the loan failed to materialise.

The ZHCT ended up with old equipment acquired through donations. In addition, Netcare, which was supposed to manage the medical centre, failed to take up its position in the venture.

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