. . . as Chinese funders grow impatient
MASERU – While the Ministry of Health has pinned its hopes on the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) to undertake demolition of the dilapidated Queen Elizabeth II Hospital to pave way for the construction of a new state of the art Maseru Hospital, the LDF would not confirm whether they will take that responsibility or not.
This is after the health ministry declared they could not afford to pay close to M33 million required to rope in top local contractors to successfully bring the buildings down.
Time is ticking and funders have since threatened to pull out of the deal if the government of Lesotho continues to delay the demolition of the buildings and begin construction.
While the LDF could not go into details on the matter, they did confirm in an interview with Public Eye however, that they do have demolition capacity but can only do so when they have an approved directive to bring down the hospital that used to be the main health care centre in Lesotho for more than 100 years.
“The LDF is a tool at the disposal of the government and when we have the approved directive proposal to do so we will definitely carry out that task. With its engineering unit, the LDF has demolition capability to take down a structure or a building,” Captain Kelebone Mothibi said in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week.
The statement suggests the LDF could still be in the dark about the entire process. This could also be the case considering that the directive for demolition of Queen II only came recently, forcing the hospital management to relocate almost immediately.
The Ministry of Health, on the other hand, emphasized that talks between them, the LDF and other ministries have been ongoing for a long time and an agreement has been reached that the LDF will perform the task.
This, the ministry is doing mainly to cut costs as government does not have money in its coffers. As a result, the Chinese government were threatening to withdraw their financial support, citing that the Government of Lesotho is delaying to demolish the dilapidated building to allow construction to start.
The LDF will not get any payment for the job but instead the Ministry of Health will be ready to use the little that they have to assist the army with some resources that may be needed to successfully undertake their duty.
The Public Relations Manager at the Ministry of Health Tumisang Mokoai was adamant in an interview with Public Eye that the project will continue.
“The LDF will do the work under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Works. They have expertise to do the job and we have been engaging in talks with them for a long time until recently when we made a decision.
“Initially we wanted to award this job to some local contractors but unfortunately they were very expensive because we would have to part ways with close to M33 million which the government does not have. So we had to go back to the drawing board and map another possible way out,” Mokoai said in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week.
Since Monday this week, the hospital began the relocation process, moving some equipment to Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) where they will be operating starting next week Monday. Because of the relocation process, this week patients were treated at nearby clinics such as the Domiciliary and LDF.
Because of the short notice, a lot of patients were not aware of the latest developments and reported for treatment at Queen II throughout the week only to be referred back to the clinics.
The hospital management has described the move as great decision by government, labelling the old Queen II building “God forsaken”.
The new state of the art hospital will be built with financial assistance from the Chinese government. In 2017, China pledged M400 million in a funding agreement that was signed in December that same year. A year later, 2018 China pledged an additional M400 million to bring its total funding commitment to M800 million for construction of the new hospital.
When complete, the hospital is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people per year in Maseru and other districts, making it the biggest project China has ever funded in Lesotho.
China has supported Lesotho with various projects that includes the new parliament building, mushroom production as well as China-Lesotho Friendship School on the Berea Plateau, among others.
The specialised hospital will further provide quality health services to Basotho and many will no longer have to go to foreign countries for medical treatment. With a floor area of 21 330 square metres, the hospital will also have training facilities and dormitories for trainee doctors and nurses.
The hospital will also ease pressure currently on Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital. Also known as Ts’epong, the hospital is normally under pressure and has to deal with overcrowding quite often despite it being the referral hospital.
The agreement between Ts’epong and government is that the hospital will only deal with referral cases but over the years the system has been undermined, resulting in the hospital taking even minor cases that can still be treated at district hospitals and clinics.