THE National Social Security Authority (NSSA) has said the renovation of the Ekusileni Medical Centre in Bulawayo was necessitated by the damage on infrastructure caused by termites.
Ekusileni, a brainchild of the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, has been lying derelict since 2004 after it was shut down shortly after opening its doors.
The hospital was closed after it was discovered that equipment worth millions of dollars acquired by the Zimbabwean Health Care Trust (ZCHT), after renting the institution from NSSA, was obsolete.
The upmarket 369-bed hospital facility was built with funding from NSSA.
NSSA general manager James Matiza said termites had eaten away some of the timber supporting the roof and some of the skirting boards at the upmarket hospital.
“Rehabilitation work is being carried out on the centre in anticipation of its being reopened soon,” he said in an emailed response to questions.
“Any building left unoccupied deteriorates over time.
“The major work has been necessitated by the intrusion into the building of termites which have eaten away some of the timber supporting the roof and some of the skirting boards.
“As a result, roofing sheets have been removed and beams are being replaced.
“Wooden skirting boards are being replaced with tiles. A few plaster cracks are being filled and repainting done.”
NSSA said it expects the work to be completed by the end of September, but last week Public Service Labour and Social Welfare minister Nicholas Goche told the National Assembly that renovations would be completed by yesterday.
Matiza said NSSA had done due diligence on Podiso, a South African firm engaged to equip the hospital.
“The operating company, Zimbabwe Health Care Trust, has advised that it has entered into an agreement with a South African company, Podiso, which will equip and manage the running of the hospital,” he said.
“NSSA has done due diligence checks on this company, which runs several hospitals in South Africa.”
There was speculation that the renovations were prompted by structural problems at the hospital that resulted in the buildings “sinking”.
However, Matiza said “its foundations are sound” and it had gone thorough assessments.
“A qualified structural engineer has thoroughly inspected the building and its surrounds and confirmed that the building and its foundations are sound,” he said.
“Some settling naturally occurs with any building. However, the building is certainly not sinking. Its foundations are sound.”
The hospital was constructed after a superstructure development fund was set up which saw NSSA, ZHCT and the Mining Industry Pension Fund (MIPF) becoming partners as the developers.
But the MIPF later dropped out of the project and ZHCT failed to contribute towards the construction, leaving NSSA to develop it on its own and become the sole owner of the property.