Fairness Moyana in Hwange
LUPOTE Clinic in Hwange District has gone for nine months without electricity after it was disconnected by Zesa over a $1 300 bill forcing nurses to use cellphone torches to attend to expecting mothers and road accident victims.
There are widespread fears from the affected villagers that the reluctance by Hwange Rural District Council, which owns the health institution, to settle the debt might end up contributing to maternal deaths. The clinic covers patients from Silewu, Sianyanga, Dopota and Masuma areas. Villagers told Sunday News that the situation was negatively affecting operations at the clinic with some expecting mothers now opting for home deliveries.
“We are really saddened at the way council is taking this whole matter. Surely how can they fail to pay $1 000 or at least engage Zesa over the issue putting in mind that this is a health institution that plays an important role in the community. This problem has been there since last year and the relevant authorities have taken no action. The health committee has tried several times to have the matter resolved but nothing is improving,” said one member of the clinic’s Health Centre Committee who refused to be named.
She said in the event of a complication during delivery at night, nurses would have a torrid time due to inadequate lighting.
“The situation is worsened during complications that may occur during childbirth such as bleeding or loss of fluids which might require the nurses to use a drip or stitching. This requires good lighting since one will be using sharp instruments to sew or find a vein for drip,” she added.
Investigations revealed that the power cut was not only affecting patients but storage of medicines which needed to be kept under regulated temperatures. The only solar-powered fridge at the institution does not have the capacity to store all the required medicines.
The clinic, which is located along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls road is the nearest health institution for referrals when road traffic accidents occur within 80 kilometers from the health institution. Sometime in April nurses had to use the headlights of a car as they battled to attend to road traffic accident victims which eventually claimed the life of Matabeleland North MDC provincial chairperson, Mr Thembinkosi Sibindi.
When Sunday News visited the clinic at night last week, nurses had just helped a woman give birth while using light from their cellphones. Mrs Judith Nyoni who delivered at night said she was scared because it was all dark.
“When I came here from Dopota, I didn’t know it was going to be like this. I delivered my baby last night with the aid of a torch from a cellphone. I was scared but luckily there were no complications. Expecting mothers are also at risk of snake bites or even giving birth in the bush as we are told to look for our own firewood for cooking,” she said.
Confirming the development councillor, Cosmas Mwakiposa said all was not well at the clinic.
“Yes, it is true, the clinic has gone for more than eight months without electricity and its really affecting the community and health personnel. I learnt from the staff how they were sometimes forced to use their cellphones to provide illumination when attending to patients. There is a mothers’ waiting shelter which was also affected by the disconnection. I’m told some deliveries are done using lights from cellphones. I have since tried to engage council over the matter but no action has been taken yet to address the challenge,” said Clr Mwakiposa.
Staff at the clinic refused to comment, preferring to refer questions to Hwange District Medical Officer, Dr Wisdom Kurauone who downplayed the issue describing the problem as minor arguing that the rural health clinic had backup solar lamps.
“Yes, I’m aware of the challenge at Lupote Clinic but it’s not a big problem at all. Clinics have large solar lamps which they are supposed to use as backup in case of power failure. It’s actually Government policy to have these lamps at each clinic to serve as backup. Yes, there was an issue of disconnection of power to the clinic due to a debt. However, that is being looked at. I understand the RDC is discussing the matter with Zesa,” said Dr Kurauone.
HRDC chief executive officer, Mr Phindile Ncube said council was working hard to rectify the problem.
“We are attending to the situation at the clinic, there was a communication breakdown between us and Zesa over the payment issue. However, I can assure you that we are doing all we can to rectify the problem,” he said.