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Matabeleland South Hospitals in Crisis: Empty Promises, Decaying Facilities

Central government's pledges to rehabilitate local hospitals such as Manama (pictured) have remained largely unfulfilled. Image by The Citizen Bulletin 

Decades of neglect have left healthcare facilities in Matabeleland in ruins, forcing communities to rely on traditional medicine. As the region clings to hope for the near-completed Beitbridge Hospital theater, questions linger: Is this progress real or just another fleeting promise?

BY LYNNIA NGWENYA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | APR 15, 2024

MANAMA (The Citizen Bulletin) — Government pledges to rehabilitate local hospitals such as Manama, Plumtree, Filabusi, Maphisa, Esigodini, and Kezi have remained largely unfulfilled.

This has caused significant concerns about healthcare accessibility in these communities.

Manama Hospital, severely affected by storms in 2021, has seen no real progress despite claims of fund disbursement.

“We heard money was dispatched for the maternity wing's rehabilitation. Community members even contributed, but it's still non-functional. There is a lot of corruption, and the resuscitation project seems to have died a natural death.”
Arorisoe Noko, a local resident

In Kezi, while efforts are underway to rehabilitate the hospital, residents fear the repetition of past failures where unfinished structures were eventually demolished.

“We hope this doesn't repeat,” says Joyce Phiri. “The hospital has degraded so much that it has transitioned from a hospital to a clinic, with its mortuary decommissioned due to malfunctioning equipment.”

The situation is similar in Maphisa and Esigodini, where hospitals have deteriorated over the years. Patients are frequently required to provide their own medical supplies, such as blood pressure kits.

“I was advised to purchase my own kit as the hospital's were outdated,” says Beautrice Moyo, a Maphisa resident.

The central government's recent ban on self-taught midwives, coupled with the poor state of hospital maternity wings, has led some community members to revert to traditional childbirth methods.

“Most villagers now prefer their local secretive midwives,” says Mavis*, a nurse at Plumtree Hospital who preferred using a pseudonym for fear of internal reprisals.

In a contrasting development, Beitbridge Hospital shows a glimmer of hope as it nears the completion of its theater reconstruction after a devastating fire in 2023. This project stands out amid the widespread neglect in the region.

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“The completion of the theater is critical for ensuring health safety and reducing travel needs for major surgeries,” said Lufuno Mukwevho, a local resident.

Despite these isolated improvements, the broader landscape of healthcare in Matabeleland remains grim. In 2023, the central government announced a modest increase in the healthcare budget, but critics argue that the amount is significantly short of what is needed to address the systemic issues plaguing rural healthcare infrastructure.

For the 2024 fiscal year, the healthcare budget was set at ZW$134.88 billion, accounting for 13.9% of total government expenditure. This represents approximately a 13% increase from the previous year's allocation of ZW$119.29 billion.

However, it remains unclear how much of this allocation is specifically designated for Matabeleland, a region severely impacted by prolonged underdevelopment.

Attempts to both secure a detailed breakdown of the budget from publicly available government data and obtain a comment from health authorities about poor health facilities in Matabeleland South were unsuccessful.

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