ST ANNE’S Hospital, which was touted as set to be the best Covid-19 response facility in Zimbabwe at the onset of the pandemic, has not opened three months down the line, due to a nagging bureaucratic and operational wrangles, it has emerged.
This is despite the fact that all necessary refurbishments and equipment fittings have been long completed.
The development comes at a time dozens of people are dying at home due to shortage of admission facilities or in ill-equipped public health institutions.
In April, the St Anne’s Hospital Covid-19 Response Centre (Sacrec), promised to have the hospital open by end of that month, but now the hospital administration said they are still not yet ready to open.
St Anne’s hospital in Harare has a capacity of 100 beds and it was converted into a Covid-19 response facility after a partnership between Catholic Sisters of the Little Company of Mary (LCM), the owners of the hospital and the trustees of Solidarity Trust Zimbabwe (SotZim).
Initially, Sakunda Holdings had identified the hospital as one of the two hospitals the oil company wanted to convert into Covid-19 facilities.
It is, however, not clear how the Catholic sisters dealt with the Sakunda request.
SotZim chairperson Nigel Chanakira said they had finished furnishing the hospital with everything that was required for it to operate as a Covid-19 facility.
“It is now beyond us. We are a public trust involved in fundraising, raising money. And we did that and we finished our job. We did our part,” Chanakira said in an interview.
“If you want information on what the hold-up is, it would be better to talk to those responsible for the clinical side. From our side we are done and we have gone to the next project. We have 15 other facilities that need our attention.”
The hospital administration, through a Catholic sister identified only as Ellen, told the Zimbabwe Independent that they were waiting for the Health Professions Authority (HPA) certification.
“We will tell you when we will be open. There are still regulatory bodies that need to be complied with. We are just complying Health Professions Authority Council, Inspection prevention and control,” she said.
The HPA, however, refused to give any information pertaining to St Anne’s and also the processes involved in certification and how long it takes.
“We might need to ask St Anne’s if we can respond to your queries because they are a private hospital. You could have also spoken to our inspectorate department on the questions you wanted to ask on the process, but they cannot come to the phone,” an HPA public relations personnel said.
Health ministry deputy minister John Mangwiro said they could not control the operations of the hospital since it was a private facility.
“I am not sure what the issues are. It is a private facility so the ministry of health does not usually get involved. But if there were issues to do with the Ministry of Health then I could have assisted you in shedding more light,” Mangwiro said.
In April, Sacrec, which was working in liaison with the Ministry of Health, said SotZim and Little Company of Mary had agreed on an initial operating period of three months, subject to review.
St Anne’s is supposed to cater for everyone regardless of public stature, healthcare personnel who were dealing with Covid-19 patients as well as intensive care and high dependency patients.
In a communiqué addressed to the hospitals management in March, former Health permanent secretary, Agnes Mahomva said they were ready to refurbish the hospital through a Private Public Partnership (PPP) deal with Sakunda holdings.
“Sakunda Holdings has confirmed that they have the resources and funding to do the work and hence refurbishment will not be at your cost,” Mahomva said.
Sakunda had also said it would fund the reopening of St Anne’s hospital in Avondale, and Rock Foundation Medical Centre in Arundel.
St Anne’s had been shut down since in 2015 after a rental dispute between pharmaceutical company CAPS, which ran the hospital, and property owners the Catholic sisters.