Ekusileni hospital talks with SA investor a flop

TALKS between Ekusileni hospital in Bulawayo and a South African investor for the re-opening of the US$4,2 million medical centre have collapsed, businessdigest has learnt.

By Hazel Ndebele

The upmarket hospital was built in 2000 by the National Social Security Authority (Nssa) and completed in 2003 in honour of late vice-president Joshua Nkomo. On completion, it was expected to provide facilities for a medical school, specialising in physiotherapy and pathology.

In an emailed response to questions from this paper this week, Nssa’s Chief Properties Investment Officer Kura Chihota confirmed that the hospital had failed to reach an agreement with South African investor Phodiso Holdings Pvt Ltd due to disagreements on commercial terms.

“The Ministry of Health shall shortly be embarking on a global partner search for operators for the modern facility after the commercial terms with the SA investors did not bear fruit,” he said. “Proposals ranging from operators to equipment sales agents are constantly received and we are expectant to reach a sustainable solution with local and international investors and get the facility serving the people of Bulawayo.”

The 200-bed hospital requires an estimated US$22 million to reopen. The hospital briefly opened in 2004, but was promptly closed by the Ministry of health after it was discovered the equipment acquired by the institute was obsolete and dangerous to patients.

Phodiso Holdings had planned to turn the medical institution into a private hospital. Government, however, strongly objected to this, pointing out that investors had failed to open it as a private institution for a long time and it should now be a public institution. President Robert Mugabe took over as the patron of the hospital after the death of Nkomo who was the founding chairman.

After negotiations with the South African investor the hospital was expected to be opened in July last year, but remained shut.

According to Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s 2013 report on State Enterprises and Parastatals, Nssa spent US$4,2 million on the hospital. Chiri revealed that Nssa had retarded growth as a result of locked resources in dormant assets. She recommended that the authority adopt appropriate strategies and systems that grow and preserve pensioner’s funds.

On other Nssa investments, Chihota said the authority was currently evaluating responses to the Beitbridge hotel tender.

“Responses ranging from hotel operators to educational institutions for the Beitbridge hotel are currently being evaluated for submission to the Management Investment Committee,” said Chihota.

Nssa’s US$49 million Beitbridge hotel became vacant following the exit of Zimbabwe’s largest hospitality group by market capitalisation, Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), which had run the property for two years. RTG exited due to recurrent losses amounting to US$2 million.