Saturday, 25 April 2020


TESTING of Covid-19 at the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo might grind to a halt as it has emerged that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that workers put on when conducting tests has run out.

The centre started testing for Covid-19 (Corononavirus) on 13 April and is one of the only two centres in the country. The other testing centre is the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory in Harare. Workers at the centre revealed yesterday that they have run out of PPE and if no supplies are made by today, testing would stop with effect from tomorrow. They raised concern that part of the equipment was allocated to areas that did not need sophisticated protective equipment like security guards.

Chairman of the National University of Science and Technology Applied Genetics Testing Centre, Mr Zephania Dlamini who is part of the team leading the testing at Mpilo said the situation was dire.

“We are left with five suits only to work with. We received 10 suits yesterday (Friday) and used five today (yesterday). We cannot have any results coming from this centre if there is no protective equipment. People cannot work,” he said. 

However, contacted for comment, the Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo, said there was no need for panic as there was enough PPE for hospitals.

“There is plenty of PPE that has arrived in the country and is being dispatched as we speak from Natpharm in Harare. I visited Natpharm this morning (yesterday) and all hospitals are going to get their share of PPE. They were preparing to ship out the consignment to various destinations across the country. The people at Mpilo should not worry too much, by tomorrow, their consignment should have been delivered,” he said.

Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Welcome Mlilo said the hospital administration could have misallocated the equipment, with some of the critical equipment sent to the main hospital and given to among others, security guards. He however, could not reveal how many PPE sets were given to Bulawayo hospitals by Government, which sourced the equipment and also received donations from various organisations.

“Some of the equipment was probably sent to the main hospital so we need to liaise with them so that people work. I will have to consult with Natpharm on how many PPE sets were supplied to Mpilo, United Bulawayo Hospitals and to the Bulawayo City Council,” said Dr Ndiweni. 

However, Sunday News observed that five guards who were manning entrances at the hospital were clad in full PPE suits. Apart from providing security, they were also applying sanitiser to visitors. Mr Dlamini, however, said the laboratory was managing to cope with tests for both Covid-19 and tuberculosis (TB).

“We are giving the TB lab a chance to run their samples in the morning, so they run from around 6am to about 1pm and then the Covid-19 samples come in from 2pm going late into the night. This is also dependent on the number of TB samples that are there and how many Covid-19 samples are there,” he said.

Mr Dlamini, added that they were not satisfied with the flow of resources to the facility.

“We are not satisfied. We are not getting enough consumables. We only get polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Kits and the instruction kits, that’s all. Consumables like pipette tips, centrifuge tubes, we are not getting those and we have been cannibalising from our National University of Science and Technology (Nust) laboratory and we hope we will be able to reimburse our laboratory. The Minister of Finance (and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube), however, promised to assist us if we give him the list of our requirements,” he said.
Speaking after the tour of the facility yesterday, Minister Ncube said Government will look at the concerns raised by Mr Dlamini and his team.

“Our role in Treasury is to ensure that they are supplied with resources. I can find additional resources so that tests can happen rapidly and massify them. I am pleased to see the workforce of people here. They are highly dedicated people who work long hours. They are here at 6am and can leave at midnight.”

Mpilo Hospital acting chief executive officer, Dr Solwayo Ngwenya, said he had reprimanded the official who gave out PPE suits to security guards.
“Everyone has to be safe but PPE suits can not be given to security guards. Giving them was a mistake and I have since reprimanded the official who gave them the suits. That will not happen again. I have also been running around since morning to source some PPE suits for the lab because I also knew that their stocks were low. Iam confident they will continue with their work. In fact the hospital has been supportive to them ever since they started working from the lab in the hospital,” he said. Sunday Mail


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