Ten years after Siabuwa clinic was designated as a district hospital to cater for the constituency’s 12 wards Binga North villagers still cannot access special health care services offered by any other hospitals in the country.
For specialist health services, villagers in Siabuwa, Binga North in Matabeleland North province are forced to travel 250 kilometres to St Luke’s hospital in Lupane. And in extreme circumstances, they are forced to travel further to Bulawayo, about 420kilometres away or to canoe to neighbouring Zambia for health services. All this is happening more than two decades after a community clinic in Siabuwa was recommended to be turned into a hospital to cater for villagers in the 12 wards of Binga North constituency.
To villagers in Binga, this underlines government insincerity to ensure there is development in Binga, a vast district that already suffers poor health services. “It was recommended a long time ago, way before I became a Chief in 2013, that the community clinic be turned into a hospital but to date, there has been no movement,” says Chief Siabuwa.
This has seen villagers being denied specialist services such as x-ray, radiology, laboratory, short-term hospitalisation and general and speciality surgical services normally provided by hospitals. At present, health facilities in Binga North suffer a myriad of challenges such as few clinics, shortages of nursing staff, drugs and other medication.
Some clinics are nearly 25 kilometres away while some wards such as Siyachilaba and Lubu in Binga North do not have clinics at all. “We also have serious shortages of nursing staff at our Siabuwa community health centre,” Chief Siabuwa adds.
“Getting sick and in need of specialist services is very costly for villagers in my area as that means forking out transport money to seek better health care. This is something that the government must address.”
The constitution and other international charters such as Article 25 of the United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right to health care.
However, in Binga, the government’s commitment to meeting constitutional and international obligations in terms of guaranteeing the right to health for its citizens comes under focus. Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo denies the government is failing to meet its obligations to guarantee the right to health care for people in Binga as he said devolution funds will be diverted to upgrade health facilities in the district.
“We have plans to capacitate health facilities in Binga using devolution funds. We have not neglected Binga. We are also using the devolution funds for example to upgrade the poor road network in Binga,” says Moyo.
In December 2020, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube allocated ZWL$19 billion for distribution to local authorities across the country under devolution. According to the constitution, at least 5 per cent of the national budget should be allocated to local authorities as part of promoting the devolution agenda.
Government allocates the funds to be shared among the 10 provinces based on several factors such as poverty levels in all rural districts, quality of infrastructure and size of the population.
Binga North opposition member Prince Dubeko Sibanda who was recalled from Parliament in 2020 says the failure by the government to fulfil its promise of turning Siabuwa clinic into a hospital mirrors the sorry state of health facilities in the district.
“Let me paint this picture this way. For starters, the highest point of health care that is government-owned and government-run starts with the Binga district hospital. To be very honest, the hospital does not have sufficient doctors,” Sibanda says.
However, while Binga people mourn over poor health services, government officials, including the Presidency, are quick to fly out of the country for specialist health care.
Sibanda adds: “The (district) hospital itself is a disaster. I still remember one time they were literally transferring every case to either Lupane or Bulawayo. They could not handle any case because they had nothing. They don’t have power; they don’t have water, demotivated staff. That is the district hospital.”
Source: The Citizen Bulletin