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Lawmakers face horror of derelict Makumbi hospital



LOCATED 45 kilometres from Harare, Makumbi Mission Hospital, which traditionally had a remarkable reputation as the go-to Catholic-run health facility servicing hundreds of thousands of people in Goromonzi district, has taken a tailspin.


The hospital’s new owner, the state, seems unmoved by the dire situation at the medical institution and the rapidly deteriorating health crisis.

All this came to light this paat week when a parliamentary portfolio committee on Health and Child Care toured the facility.

The hospital serves a catchment area of 386 199 people, yet the mortuary can only cater for three corpses at a time.

The district health services administrator, Evelyn Runodada, says the situation is so dire that some bodies are placed on the floor awaiting the exit of those that would have accessed the morgue fridge earlier.

Runodada was responding to questions posed to her by members of Parliament on whether or not the hospital had the capacity to deal with non-communicable diseases such as cancer. What the lawmakers discovered was shocking.

“It is a challenge to us, usually we have more than three bodies at a time in the mortuary. What do we do? We double our bodies per tray, that is one strategy that we use and at times we put them down on the floor and we communicate with the relatives our situation and ask them to quickly come and take their body,” she said.

The floor on which the bodies are placed does not have a temperature control mechanism to lessen the risk of decomposition, so when one of the bodies in the trays is taken by the deceased’s family, the corpses on the floor are quickly placed in the freezers.

She added that sometimes there are unidentified bodies that should be given a pauper’s burial by the government, which is a lengthy process that keeps the morgue occupied.

“For those bodies that are brought in dead by the police,  some of them take time without being collected and that poses a challenge and some of them will never be collected and going through the process of a pauper’s burial is a lengthy process, so we have a challenge there and at times we ask the police to take the body to Parirenyatwa [Hospital in Harare]. And most of the time Parirenyatwa won’t have space as well and in our district this is the only mortuary that we have, so we don’t have anywhere else to refer our bodies. So we end up taking [the body] for the sake of humanity. We cannot ask someone to stay with a corpse at their house, so we are trying our best,” she said.

A mortuary is a place of respect and care for the dead, and morgue attendants ensure that the corpses are treated with dignity during the final stages before their funeral, which might not be the case at Makumbi Hospital.

Public health care institutions in Zimbabwe are under scrutiny  for failing to deliver on their mandate of service provision. The derelict state of Makumbi Mission Hospital highlights how the sector has depreciated over the years.

Makumbi Mission Hospital, formerly owned and run by the Roman Catholic, was officially opened in 1946 and the government of Zimbabwe took over operations at Independence in 1980.

Unfortunately, there has not been much infrastructure development on the hospital; it has essentially remained the same since 1946.

“When the hospital was built in 1946, that is the mortuary that we are using and it has the same capacity,” she told the members of Parliament.

The ideal situation would be to have the capacity to carry at least 12 bodies.

“We have been trying to lobby for funds to construct a new mortuary, we would like it to be a 12-body mortuary. So we have been applying for PSIP [Public Sector Investment Programme] funds, we have been promised and we are still submitting our requests for a mortuary,” she said.

Runodada also told Parliament’s Health portfolio committee how dire the situation is not only at the morgue but even the kitchen that prepares food for patients.

“This is our kitchen, we have these pots, (six of them), these were condemned. They are no longer working. So we are now using them for water storage. We are supposed to be taking them out, but they are too big for our doors and we have got a water challenge here, so we use them to store water,” she said.

The institution now uses smaller pots similar in size to those found in domestic households to prepare food for patients, but this is not good enough.

“So we have two stoves that are functional and we have got a number of patients to feed and sometimes it poses a challenge. All our patients get food. We make an effort to make sure that they are fed, so we have staff members who come as early as 3 o’clock to start making porridge because our stoves cook slowly. Sometimes they put fire outside to cook for the patients. We also use gas. We also invest in buying gas to cook for the patients,” she said.

Citizens have lamented the government’s priorities. Lots of money is spent on luxury cars, yet an entire district cannot cater for more than three corpses.

As if not burdened enough, Makumbi Mission Hospital does not have an incinerator to burn medical waste.

It has only one ambulance, bought in 2013, to service the district’s 25 wards. Given the terrible road network in the area, the ambulance is constantly breaking down.
The sole ambulance is also the hospital’s only mode of transport for ferrying water from community boreholes to the institution whenever there are water shortages.

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