HARARE – Expensive medical equipment acquired by government for its struggling hospitals has been gathering dust for four years — forcing hundreds of patients to seek private services — because there are no technicians to install them.
This was revealed by the Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri in her latest report which has been tabled in Parliament.
Chiri said that equipment delivered to Ngomahuru Psychiatric Hospital and Mutare Provincial Hospital, respectively, has been lying idle for over four years.
“The issue of the equipment that was not installed at Ngomahuru Hospital has not been resolved since the equipment got damaged in transit and repairs have to be done before installation.
“The issue of idle equipment at Mutare Provincial Hospital has not been resolved. After delivery, the boilers at Mutare Provincial Hospital broke down and needed a complete overhaul, which was not anticipated.
“Tendering was done in 2016 and no competent bidders came up. The hospital is to re-tender in the current year 2017,’ said Chiri.
The equipment acquired for Mutare Provincial Hospital was under a $3 million programme.
“If the equipment is not installed and put to use, the equipment may get worn out and become obsolete before it is used. The purpose for which the equipment was purchased may not be achieved.
“The ministry should make an effort to ensure that the equipment purchased under targeted approach is installed and put to use so that the purpose for which the equipment was purchased is achieved,” she added.
Most public hospitals are collapsing under the weight of a myriad other problems, including the shortage of drugs and continued under-funding by the government.
Early this year, the country’s major hospitals warned that they were running low on the supply of a major drug used during surgical operations — after major drug supplier, GSK, pulled out of the Zimbabwean market in 2016.
Last year, major referral hospitals also had to suspend many services as a result of the shortage of drugs, including painkillers — exposing how much things have fallen apart in the country since the early 2000s.
United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) and Harare Central Hospital were among the major health facilities that had to suspend normal services as a result of drug shortages, including pethidine — a synthetic compound used as a painkiller, especially for women in labour and during caesarean operations.
Meanwhile, Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa has said government must review downwards the cost of blood.
Currently, blood costs $120 a pint in Zimbabwe, compared to around $50 in neighbouring Zambia.
“It is true that blood is very expensive in this country. It used to be $135 per unit of blood and it has now come down to $120 in the private sector.
“In the government institutions, it is still high and is at $100,’ said Parirenyatwa while responding to a question from MDC Masvingo senator Farirai Mabugu on the steep cost of replacing blood lost during major surgery, childbirth or a severe accident.
Parirenyatwa told the Senate that government had engaged development partners to ease the crisis.
“We have got certain partners who have assisted us, particularly with pregnant mothers and we now have coupons.
“We have been distributing those coupons.
“Any pregnant mother who deserves to have blood to use, we use those coupons for them. That has alleviated a lot of suffering for the pregnant mothers,” he said.
“There are still a lot of people who suffer road traffic accidents, need blood and those are emergency cases.
“We have instructed that all emergency cases should be treated as emergency cases and given what they need to have at that time; the cost will be looked at later on.
“If it is a chronic case, then it is slightly a different matter but for emergencies and pregnant mothers, that is the arrangement that we have,” he added.
During a tour of the blood blank last year, legislators revealed that some people living close to Zambia were importing blood, as it was cheaper.