Raw sewage flows unattended at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. Smart nurses, just like their ‘smart’ ghetto counterparts are having to hop, step and skip in careful zigzags over smelly puddles of human waste, daily.
It is not just the sewage, it is the smell, the filth, the countless number of “dumpsites”, strewn-about defunct equipment, fallen trees, damaged sports courts, falling and leaking ceilings in the wards. All these have been there for over three years.
Parirenyatwa hosts the country’s biggest nurse training school, housing over 5,000 beds, three major facilities that include the largest maternity hospital, 12 theatres and over a thousand health care providers. It has three nurse training intakes for a three year diploma, with all students staying within the hospital grounds.
Parirenyatwa is the country’s largest referral hospital and, despite a shortage of equipment, personal protective clothing and medicines; the facility is still expected to serve tens of thousands daily from across the country.
In September this year, two patients undergoing treatment were seriously injured after a ceiling fell on them during examination. Despite efforts to downplay the incident by hospital authorities, social media users said this was just an example of Zimbabwe’s dilapidated health delivery infrastructure.
Nurses who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation said calls to have the dire state of affairs addressed were being ignored.
“This place is now rundown and people have normalised it. Imagine, we talked to these people months ago but they did nothing. You would expect Parirenyatwa to be the smartest hospital in the country but when you get here all you see is old equipment in the corridors, rusty gutters and unattended dirt.”
Two Zanu PF regimes have overseen the rapid collapse of Zimbabwe’s once celebrated health system, with poor funding, maladministration and corruption being blamed for the massive decline.
Parirenyatwa, which treated late Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith in 1982 when he suffered a heart attack at parliament, has not treated any high profile official in decades as they have realised its dire state.
“Unfortunately our government officials do not use the systems that they are running. When they get sick they go outside the country,” said Simon Madubeko, a junior doctor.
“They go to South Africa, Singapore, Egypt and China where systems are working. It is the reason they do not put money into making sure local institutions are running properly. They get comfort elsewhere.”
Built in the colonial era as the Andrew Fleming Hospital, in honour of Cecil John Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC) principal medical officer, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals was renamed at independence in 1980 after Tichafa Parirenyatwa, the country’s first black doctor. A major refurbishment, promised in 2004 to bring it to international standards within two years failed dismally due to problems in accessing foreign currency.
Parirenyatwa Hospital spokesperson Linos Dhire said equipment seen by this publication was being processed for disposal while disputing the presence of sewage at the facility despite images taken. Dhire said:
“All the items lying idle have been earmarked for disposal in terms of the relevant statute. The appropriate paper work is almost complete.
“An ornamental tree fell on the roof recently due to incessant winds and rain and has since been removed. We have Home Wardens in every hostel whose responsibilities include identifying infrastructural issues which need attention and report them to relevant departments.
“This system has worked very well over the years. All sewer bursts are immediately attended to as a matter of urgency and we currently do not have any burst sewer pipes but we have two burst water pipes which are receiving attention.”
At the hospital creche, wet clothes were hung on children’s swings while what looks like a canteen is now an abandoned metal scrapyard. A walk through the hospital wards exposed a leaking ceiling, with authorities placing buckets and blankets below the leak to avoid puddles.
“The hospital is doing everything possible to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure despite the fact that the infrastructure is now old, including the pipe work.”