Lies have short legs. Amidst repeated assurances that Treasury purchased 100 ambulances to be distributed across all the districts in Zimbabwe, it turns out none were bought.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Contrary to repeated assurances to revamp public health from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development led by Professor Mthuli Ncube, Treasury according to the latest Auditor General report did not buy any ambulances between the period 2019 and 2020.
No ambulances were procured in 2019 and 2020. Audit is still to visit provinces and districts to assess progress made,” Auditor General Ms Mildred Chiri said.
The Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube according to June 2020 press reports, upon inquisitions from parliamentarians claimed they were in final stages of procuring the ambulances. He reportedly said the process had taken longer than necessary. He said the tender system had taken over one year to gain traction.
Minister Ncube made the remarks during his visit to Beitbridge in 2020 while responding to concerns raised by MPs for Beitbridge East and West Cdes Albert Nguluvhe and Ruth Maboyi respectively.
Minister Ncube said under the new ambulance project, each province will get between five and seven ambulances.
“I have noted the concerns from the local parliamentarians, (Nguluvhe and Maboyi). Let me also advise you that we are at the final stage of acquiring 100 ambulances,” he was quoted as saying.
“We should have done this last year but the tender process took longer than expected and was only finalised recently. The idea is to deliver at least five or seven ambulances to each province with priority being areas like Beitbridge and Plumtree which handle a high volume of human traffic from Botswana and South Africa respectively.”
Presenting the 2021 national budget, Prof Ncube said: “In this regard, the NDS1 provides a commitment to revamp the public health infrastructure, covering upgrading and construction of health facilities, installation of medical equipment, procurement of ambulances and utility vehicles.”
A study on emergency and ambulance service commissioned by Government in 2018 established that owing to the shortage of ambulances, nearly 30 percent of road traffic accident victims die before reaching a healthcare facility.
The study also established that transit time for patients in ambulances ranges between four to five hours, leading to unnecessary loss of life.
All Government ambulances, the study revealed, lacked basic equipment including oxygen, delivery packs for pregnant women in transit, resuscitation equipment, masks, intravenous lines for drips, intravenous stands and trolleys.
The study recommended that all 63 districts in the country’s health system should have at least two functional ambulances and qualified personnel.