HWANGE district’s biggest referral health institution, Victoria Falls Hospital, is running without emergency facilities and basic medication, a development which is compromising service delivery in the event of a disaster in the country’s prime tourist resort.
Doctors at the institution said there was no functional intensive care unit (ICU) and related supplies such as oxygen synthesisers.
A government medical officer, Michael Jeans, recently told United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brian Nichols that in cases of emergency, it takes about six hours for patients to be evacuated to the nearest health facility in South Africa.
He said the hospital needed facilities for trauma and life support, including oxygen synthesisers in the ICU.
“We also don’t have medication to stabilise patients affected by heat stroke nor injection for blood thinning and blood in emergency situations,” Jeans said.
“As a result, we alternate to anti-clotting pills like aspirin which is also not always available.
These injections are always in stock even in rural areas of South Africa, yet the prime tourism destination does not have.”
He added that due to electricity shortages, emergencies were difficult to attend to as the generator at times would not have adequate fuel to run.
Nichols said 60 000 Americans visited the country annually and safe healthcare was a necessity.
Acting district medical officer Fungai Musinami said they were working with US-based organisation, Matter, which recently donated maternity equipment.
Victoria Falls Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe chapter chairperson Farai Chimba said there was need for collaborative efforts to capacitate hospitals in order to promote smooth running of tourism.
“We had to take an injured tourist to hospital, but he died upon admission in South Africa, otherwise many prefer private hospitals,” he said.
Matabeleland North provincial medical director Purgie Chimbengwa said the Victoria Falls Hospital “is ideally not at a level of a provincial hospital, where one expects to find services such as ICU”.
In a bid to improve service delivery, he said they had deployed an obstetrician and gynaecologist to complement the government medical officers.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said the deplorable state of the country’s health system required urgent attention, giving priority focus to revitalising the primary healthcare system and addressing the social determinants of health to achieve universal health coverage, thus enabling every Zimbabwean equitable access to essential quality health without facing financial hardships.