The United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) says it currently has 22 patients admitted, and some of them require oxygen to stay alive.
"Our major crisis at the moment is oxygen. BOC Zimbabwe Gases which supplies us is having to outsource, they're facing all sorts of problems with ZESA," UBH acting CEO Dr Narcicious Dzvanga said on Thursday.
"We have a bulk tank that can take 10,000kg, but they came on Saturday and gave us 4,000kg which is already finished. Covid is about oxygen. No oxygen when you need it, count yourself dead. Once you are that sick to require hospitalisation, the therapy for Covid is oxygen and if it's not there, say your prayers and have your last meal."
Dr Dzvanga said they have a capacity for 150 beds, but the Covid-19 section has just 50 beds – raising new questions about Zimbabwe's preparedness to deal with a virus which had killed 879 people by Wednesday, with 733 new infections reported.
UBH, one of Zimbabwe's biggest referral hospitals, is the designated Covid-19 centre in south-western Zimbabwe. It was drafted after Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital stopped taking patients.
Zimbabwe is in the grips of a second wave of Covid-19, which doctors suspect is fuelled by a new strain of the virus first detected in South Africa before the United Kingdom and Brazil also reported similar findings.
The new strain spreads faster, according to scientists, although researchers are trying to establish if it also leads to higher mortality.Dr Dzvanga said the Old Bartley Memorial Block which has been closed off for Covid-19 patients had to date received 142 patients since it got its designation on December 3 last year. Of those, 102 recovered but 40 died.
The hospital is admitting an average four patients per day, he said.
He bemoaned delays in opening the other Covid-19 facility, Ekusileni Medical Centre in Hillside, and the lack of capacity for Thorngrove which was heaping pressure on UBH.
"What's paining us at the moment is that our core partners in fighting the virus, nothing is happening there. We were asked to groom Ekusileni, we have nurses and doctors on our books ready to go there but nothing is happening," Dr Dzvanga said, speaking during a hand-over of 2,000 masks donated by the I AM Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19 Trust.
He added: "They keep demanding that the nurses be on site but they go there and are told to clean the place twice a day, and that is it. For some reason or another, the hospital just cannot get patients."
He said they were asked to deploy 20 nurses at Thorngrove but the institution is also not admitting patients for various reasons.
"The reason I'm saying this is to let you know that the principal centre for Covid-19 in Bulawayo is UBH. I'm begging you to redirect your efforts and make sure that the resources are going to a place that is managing Covid, instead of facilities which are planning to manage it because the upsurge is already here. You just have to look at the statistics."
Dr Dzvanga said the centre requires specialised beds for the Intensive Care Unit and High Dependency Unity which are more expensive.
To fully equip their Intensive Care Unity, High Dependency Unit and theatre, he said the hospital needs US$9 million.
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