Tuesday 24 March 2020


Mpilo Central Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals are now only attending to emergency cases while all admitted patients who can cope will be discharged, measures which will remain in place until Covid-19 is no longer a threat.

All non-emergency operations are also being cancelled while the elderly have been advised to limit their visits. Mpilo Central Hospital Clinical Director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya yesterday said they were trying to decongest the hospital as there were fears of the virus spreading in the country.

Three positive cases have already been reported in Victoria Falls and Harare. One patient has since died while the Government is yet to provide details on the third patient who was mentioned in a national update yesterday. 

Dr Ngwenya said the elderly should by all means stay away from hospital grounds and confine themselves to their homes as they were vulnerable to the virus due to a weakened immune system associated with aging.

He urged the elderly running out of chronic illness medication to try and send relatives to hospital for supplies.

“The situation is bad and as way of protecting our patients and the rest of the public, we are trying to control the numbers at our hospitals. We will now be attending to emergency cases only and have closed the Outpatient Department. All non-emergency operations are suspended with immediate effect. This virus is deadly and we realise that people seem to be very relaxed as if they assume to be immune from it. The public must practice social distancing and avoid public spaces unless if it is necessary,” said Dr Ngwenya. 

“We will have to discharge all our stable patients as we try to lower the numbers here in the hospital. Everyone with serious flu like or Covid-19 like symptoms must not come to the hospital or go to a clinic. They must call the rapid response team on their hotline to avoid possible infection of other people as they are in transit to hospital. The Covid-19 team will come to you.

“The world is faced with the fast spreading Covid-19 pandemic and everyone is at great risk of catching this highly infectious disease. Mpilo Central Hospital must take measures to reduce the risk of spreading the deadly virus.”

Asked what constitutes an emergency, he said: “A lot of situations, incidents and conditions can constitute an emergency. However, we advise patients that if someone is feeling unbearable discomfort, or excruciating pain, or can see that they are taking care of a person who has taken very ill, then that is an emergency. Emergencies can be accidents, burns, asthma attacks, strokes, diabetes related collapsing and coma, very low or very high blood pressure or sugar levels and many more. This list is not exhaustive but the bottom line is that if it’s an emergency you will be treated.”

Dr Ngwenya said those that are not very sick and cannot be listed under emergency cases will not be attended to at the hospital and said they can only come after the Covid-19 situation had been contained.

He advised such patients to receive care at home until the hospital can attend to them. 

 “Our Out-patients departments are closed till further notice. All elective operations are cancelled till further notice. We should enforce the One (1) visitor per patient as continued in SI 77 of 2020. We should encourage people not to make unnecessary visits to the hospital.

“All suspected cases of Covid-19 and their accompanying relatives should be assessed by the Rapid Response teams from Mpilo Central Hospital and Bulawayo City Health Department. Protective clothing for staff is reportedly on its way and soon the Government will send us supplies. Meanwhile, practice personal hygiene and social distancing.”

When Chronicle arrived at the hospital, scores of people, patients and accompanying relatives were being turned away as hospital staff informed them that the outpatient and causality departments had closed to the public and were only attending to emergency cases.

“We have been here since 8am. it’s now way past lunch time. We have not been served and are sitting in benches. We need our medication for hypertension and diabetes and we cannot opt for the pharmacies in town because it is too expensive. We hope that they attend to us today since they are saying tomorrow, they will not be taking any patients,” said Gogo Esther Mdlongwa (74).

United Bulawayo Hospital Chief Executive Officer Mrs Nonhlanhla Ndlovu could not be reached for comment yesterday on the phone. When Chronicle news crew arrived at the hospital, she was said to be in a meeting. However, the hospital was also limiting patients and advising the public that it would only attend to emergency cases only as a result of the Covid-19.

The UBH has also implemented the one visitor per patients per day programme policy and kas also reduced visiting sessions to one 30-minute visit per day.

Meanwhile, travellers are still accessing Zimbabwe and South Africa via Beitbridge Border Post pending the finalisation of a border operational plan but the number of travellers has been going down since last week.

As of yesterday, people were seen going to either sides of the border and some of them said they wanted to join their spouses in either country since schools had closed.
The assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge (Zimbabwe), Mr Nqobile Ncube said traffic started declining at the port of entry as many travellers started complying with travel and preventative measures from regional countries. He said they were waiting for a comprehensive operation plan that will spell out the cut off period of access by human traffic at the border. “As you are aware there has been a Presidential declaration on the new border operations and everyone is willing to understand when it takes effect and also how and who exactly is affected by that declaration,” he said. Chronicle


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