Robin Muchetu, Senior Life Reporter
WHEN Sibongile Ncube who works for a communications company was involved in a car accident in 2015 injuring her legs, she thought that was the end of the world. She saw herself unemployable, unrehabilitable and basically useless.
She was discharged from hospital and went straight home and never set foot in a working environment. This scenario is not unique to Sibongile alone but to several people around the country who do not know the existence of the National Social Security Authority Workers Compensation Rehabilitation Centre in Bulawayo which caters for such people.
The centre which is located adjacent to Mpilo Central Hospital in Mzilikazi is the country’s referral centre for patients that need rehabilitation following work-related accidents.
The chief occupational health and safety officer of the centre, Dr Betty Nyereyegona, told Sunday Life that the major challenge that they were facing was that people do not know the existence of the centre.
“The services are available for the people; the challenge is that we are not known which is a disadvantage. People should be able to come and seek rehabilitation services because they are available near them,” she said.
After this realisation, Nssa then decided to open to the public as the facility was underutilised.
Dr Nyereyegona told the Sunday Life that the center has started accepting outsiders.
“Before we only concentrated on workers that are under Workers Compensation Insurance Fund. These are people working in formal employment whose workers are paying premiums for them to be covered against work related injuries.
“Because we are not using the center to full capacity we can now take more people even people who have suffered strokes, or someone who has been in an accident which have nothing to do with work. They can now be rehabilitated,” she said.
Dr Nyereyegona said the activities of the center are funded under the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund so the beneficiaries contribute to the fund. For people outside the scheme, they now have to pay a fee to access services as they come.
“Paying for long term purpose will now come under the National Health Insurance Fund. As for now people just walk in and pay the required fees for that moment. Medical aid is also accepted at the center,” she said.
Dr Nyereyegona said they have a few people who have already accessed services since it opened to the public.
Recently the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Cde Prisca Mupfumira toured the facility and said there is need for communities to bring children with disabilities to get rehabilitation.
“We still have people who hide children with disabilities; they do not bring them for rehabilitation. Many children are not at school because of this. This is not acceptable at all; these children need a chance in school, so they should be rehabilitated at such places,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira said there are still negative connotations that are associated with disability that have to be removed from the society in order for people to get assistance.
The centre is the biggest in Zimbabwe and has a unique method of assisting injured people.
Mrs Emily Seula the senior nursing officer at the institution said the center wants the process of rehabilitation to continue at home so a constant attendant is trained at the center. A constant attendant is a person identified by the patient who can get training and be able to care for them after they are discharged at the rehabilitation center.
“We train a constant attendant to look after the patient at home after they have been discharged here. We train them to do bed baths, bowel and bladder care, wheelchair use and also prevention of pressure sores,” she said.
For paraplegics that have injury to two limbs from the waist downwards, she said they train one person while for quadriplegics they train two attendants because these will have suffered injury of the spine so they cannot use their hands and feet.
As part of the rehabilitation process, the center offers a variety of methods to ensure the patient recovers well. The center has a hydrotherapy section which is therapy by use of heated water in an indoor pool. Various exercises can be done this way; the instructor in that section said there is better movement under water so it acts as good physiotherapy and occupation therapy.
The centre has a gymnasium where a wide range of equipment is available for injured patients to undergo exercise of their limbs. Electrotherapy is also another method used in the rehabilitation of injured people. This is the use of electric currents passed through the body to stimulate nerves and muscles, chiefly in the treatment of various forms of paralysis.
For those that will have been injured they can be attended at an industrial clinic that is situated within the center. A ward for injured patients is also available where one can be admitted and seen by medical doctors before being discharged to a rehabilitation ward.
All patients that are admitted are offered full boarding, laundry, and catering and entertainment services while others come in and go on the same day after accessing services.
The centre which opened its doors in 1971 is the biggest rehabilitation centre in the southern region of Zimbabwe. It has the capacity to house 70 in-patients and an excess of 150 out-patients at a time.