THE Old Bartley Memorial Block (BMB) within the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) — the only functional public Covid-19 centre for the southern region — has run out of oxygen as the number of deaths and new cases continue to shoot up in the country.
Officially opened on December 3 last year with only one functional wing, the construction of the super structure is said to be complete.
An additional US$9 million is needed for the remaining works and equipment in the centre.
It has a capacity of 112 beds and up to 150 when the need arises.
As of Wednesday, there were 22 patients at BMB with reports that about four patients are admitted daily.
Since its opening, a total of 142 patients have been admitted and of those 40 died and 102 were discharged.
The BMB is the first of the three public designated Covid-19 centres in the city to open its doors to patients as the other two, Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital and Ekusileni Medical Centre, are still under renovations.
Bulawayo is home to four designated centres; the fourth being the privately-owned Mater Dei Hospital.
The whole southern region which relies on the BMB has a total 2 202 active cases.
Bulawayo has a total of 556 active cases and so far has recorded 159 deaths since the onset of the global pandemic.
On Wednesday, 733 new Covid-19 cases and 54 deaths were recorded countrywide. Of the new cases, 37 were from Bulawayo, 35 from Midlands, 76 from Masvingo, 33 from Matabeleland North and 22 from Matabeleland South.
As of Wednesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 29 408 cases, 19 253 recoveries and 879 deaths.
Speaking during the handover of 2 000 N95 masks for healthcare workers by IAM4BYO Fighting Covid Trust yesterday, acting UBH chief executive officer Dr Narcisius Dzvanga said they last received oxygen supplies on Saturday.
“We are grateful for the work done by IAM4 BYO in the fight against Covid as we know they have helped generate resources for our public institutions.
“The BMB is nearly complete and was to be handed over on Wednesday which is still underway,” said Dr Dzvanga.
He said in the event of an overflow BMB can take a maximum 150 since there is a verandah which has oxygen pots and patients will be safe from harsh weather and pests.
“The hospital has admitted 142 Covid-19 patients since it opened last year in December and average admission of four patients per day and of those 40 died while 102 were discharged. Our major crisis at the moment is oxygen and our main supplier BOC is having Zesa problems as well. We have a bulk tank which can take 10 000kg but they came on Saturday and gave us 4 000kg which is already finished,” he said.
Dr Dzvanga said there can be no Covid-19 therapy without oxygen which means the lives of those infected are at stake.
“Once you test positive and require hospitalisation, the therapy for Covid-19 is oxygen and if is not there, you can have your last meal and prayers,” he said.
He also bemoaned the fact that many health care workers from UBH were deployed to other designated centres which are not yet operational.
Dr Dzvanga said due to resource constraints, they were forced to source beds from the main hospital to at least equip BMB with 50 beds.
An additional 40 or so beds are needed mainly for the intensive care unit and Dr Dzvanga said the hospital cannot afford to source the outstanding beds.
“I am begging you to redirect your efforts and channel resources to a place which is directly managing Covid-19. We need US$9 million worth of outstanding equipment but we are saying may the well-wishers choose what they can help us with as we still need a lab and other works that need to be done which may be minor but they do cost a lot.”
The chairperson for IAM4BYO Mr Busisa Moyo said the organisation will continue working towards providing resources for health institutions to continue fighting Covid-19.
He donated cooking oil and soap from the United Refineries where he is chief executive officer.
“We are grateful for the update and we need to know how much PPE is consumed daily so that we try and ensure its availability. We will also try and do something about the bedding issues and hope to engage our partners from all over on how best we can equip then BMB,” said Mr Moyo.
The Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr John Mangwiro could not be reached as he was in a series of meetings yesterday.
However, Bulawayo provincial medical director Dr Welcome Mlilo said he was not aware of any shortage of oxygen at BMB as deliveries were made last weekend.
“I am not aware of such a development and I know that oxygen deliveries were made during the weekend. UBH has a 10 000kg tank and we will continue ensuring there is adequate supplies so that our Covid-19 patients are catered for,” he said.