The Sunday News
Sharon Chimenya, Masvingo Correspondent
VILLAGERS living near one of the country’s largest psychiatric centres, Ngomahuru Psychiatric Centre in Masvingo are living in fear as more than 200 inmates, some very violent, are everyday escorted to bath at a nearby river as the institution has gone for a month without tap water.
The institution relies on water supplied by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority but due to power faults, the organisation has been failing to pump water to the health care centre. Every day, locals said, security guards escort the patients to Magwagwadza river, about a kilometre away for them to take a bath.
Ideally the inmates are kept in fenced environments as some of them are violent, where they are closely monitored and to also ensure that they do not escape.
Villagers now fear sharing the river with the inmates as some of them are reportedly violent. This has prompted former Masvingo West MP Mr Tachiona Chiminya who is also a villager in Chiminya Village where the institution is located, to instruct his lawyers Matutu and Mureri law firm to write to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Zinwa and Zesa demanding the restoration of water supply to the institution and to protect the patients by stopping the institution from taking them to the river to bath.
“We are instructed to demand as we hereby do that you restore water supply to the institution within 24 hours of sight of this letter and immediately protect the patients by stopping the institution from taking patients to the river to bath. Failure to meet the above demand will result in legal action against you without further notice.
We are reliably advised that patients at Ngomahuru Hospital have for the past one-and-half months been taking baths in Magwagwadza river which is about a kilometre away from the institution. Magwagwadza river is the main source of water for the villagers surrounding Ngomahuru Mental Hospital. Patients from the said institution are being taken to the river both males and females, at the same time to bath,” read part of the letter dated 15 February 2021.
According to the letter of demand, villagers are also complaining that they also use the water for domestic use.
“The right of health of the patients and the community is being seriously compromised in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic and other diseases. More than 200 patients bathing in one source of water that is also used by the community is deplorable and an emergency health situation. The community is at great risk as patients who are supposed to be confined in the institution are being daily released into the community without any safety measures being taken. The patients themselves are being put to great risk of drowning or being attacked by crocodiles.
“We are further advised that residents of the area have been raising concerns with the authorities at the hospital which instead have advised that they have no other option because of the incessant challenges at the hospital. They further advised that Zinwa is not pumping water to the institution and Zinwa is also putting blame on ZETDC for not supplying electricity to enable them to pump water to the institution.”
Ngomahuru Psychiatric Centre medical superintendent Dr Parirenyatwa Maramba referred questions to the Masvingo Provincial Medical Director Dr Amadeus Shamhu who however, could not be reached for comment.
However, sources at the hospital said both females and males were everyday forced to go and bath in the river.
“What is worrying is that we have a category of inmates who are violent and taking them out of the institution is risky. Its is also hard to control 200 inmates at one time while outside the perimeter fence,” said a worker at the institution.