BCC turns to private ambulance providers to fight cholera outbreak

THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has enlisted the help of private ambulance providers to help ferry suspected cholera patients to isolation centres as its own fleet lacks protective clothing against the waterborne disease.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

Government declared a state of emergency following the cholera outbreak that has claimed 49 lives, and affected about 10 000.

The outbreak was first reported in the capital, Harare, but the communicable disease has spread to neighbouring towns and in Bulawayo.

The local authority has also recorded sporadic cases.

Cholera cases recorded in Bulawayo involved people who had visited Harare.

It is the first time in over a decade that Bulawayo has recorded a cholera or typhoid outbreak despite the city facing acute water shortages.

According to latest council minutes, the local authority does not have ambulances with protective devices to ferry cholera patients, hence an SOS has been sent to private health institutions for assistance.

“Discussion ensued and the Chamber secretary [Sikhangele Zhou] advised that one ambulance had been dedicated towards ferrying cholera patients. The rest of the ambulances do not have the required protective clothing,” a council report of the environment management and engineering services read.

“So far, 13 patients suspected of having cholera had been conveyed to the hospital. A meeting with the Minister of Local Government and other stakeholders like MARS, EMRAS was held, whereby a request was made to them to second one ambulance each to assist council in the conveying of patients affected with cholera.”

Bulawayo was largely spared the cholera epidemic that killed 4 500 and affected nearly 100 000 people in 2008, mainly due to its disaster preparedness and tough enforcement of environmental and health by-laws.

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