Covid-19 overwhelms Mater Dei Hospital

BULAWAYO’S Roman Catholic-run Mater Dei Hospital says it is overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic as the demand for treatment and isolation facilities continue to rise.

This comes as the institution has also been hit by staff exodus, as nurses are leaving in search of greener pastures.

“The hospital is desperately short of nurses — they are returning to the United Kingdom (UK) in droves. 

“The staff is exhausted. The hospital has reserved the main intensive care unit, emergency and some wards for non-Covid-19 cases. 

“They have to provide medical treatment arising from other causes. Bulawayo is in a serious Covid-19 crisis and it has not peaked,” the hospital’s board member Gavin Stephens said yesterday.

Stephens said the situation was so bad that 58 beds set aside by the institution to cater for Covid-19 patients were almost full.

“Six weeks ago there were no Covid-19 patients — then the third wave started. Slow at first, but rising rapidly. 

“The isolation unit was full two weeks ago, so the emergency plans set out a year ago have kicked in.

“We can install a further 15 beds in a converted area, but do not have the beds. It will be a makeshift emergency facility for less serious cases, but the alternative is to turn patients away. 

“Oxygen supplies we have managed, but are under pressure. The positive response to the appeal for cylinders last year has been hugely important,” Stephens further said.

This comes as Ekusileni Hospital on Tuesday finally opened its doors to Covid-19 patients in a development that is likely to ease pressure from other designated isolation centres in the city.

Last year, Mater Dei received criticism from some quotas after it announced that it was charging US$5 000 for admitting Covid-19 patients.

Following a public outcry, the government moved to engage the health facility with the view to sign a memorandum of understanding, paving way for free treatment.

During the same period last year, the Medical Aid Society of Southern Africa (Masca) led an initiative to capacitate the hospital to establish an isolation and treatment wing for coronavirus patients.

Masca sought for US$65 000 to purchase ventilators, with other donations in kind or labour to fully-equip the Covid-19 treatment and isolation facilities.