MAMELLO SEBATANE and
MASERU – A sod turning ceremony for the China-aided Maseru District Hospital and Eye Clinic project was held on Wednesday at the site of the former Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in the centre of Maseru City. The old run down premises of Queen II hospital were taken down to ground zero about a year ago.
The construction of the new health facility, which is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people in Maseru and other districts, was meant to begin in 2018. In December 2017 when the two governments signed a funding agreement, China initially pledged M400 million but has since resolved to double the funding commitment as part of its improved development assistance package to Lesotho which now amounts to M800 million.
Following signature, the project met several hiccups following its announcement then Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, said the works would be delayed after the initial M29 million budget was cut down to M16 million. He said the ministry had then written to the Ministry of Public Works requesting that they be allowed to do the work on their own.
The delays were largely due to the disagreements between the Ministry of Health and that of Public Works over the costs of demolishing Queen Elizabeth II Hospital which had been pegged at M29 million by the public works ministry after inviting tender bids from different companies.
Queen Elizabeth II Hospital closed its doors for business in September 2011, after serving the nation for over 100 years. The hospital was said to be notorious for poor services and archaic medical faculties, but later on was reopened to operate only for Outpatients After its closure, Queen Elizabeth II Hospital transferred all services to the new multi-million Maluti Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital, known as Tšepong, which was established through a public-private partnership agreement between the government and Net-Care of South Africa, before it was reopened two years later.
Speaking at the sod turning, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro said upon realisation that here was need for a hospital for the Maseru district, government approached the government of China for assistance and it obliged. Majoro expressed delight that the long-awaited construction will soon start.
Majoro noted that this is just one of the many projects that China has assisted Lesotho with. “Over the last months, we have witnessed many instances of material support by the People’s Republic of China to our country, including on PPE, food assistance, infrastructure including roads and energy projects and today’s support to the health sector.
The bonds of friendship and cooperation have continued to strengthen and should be based on demonstrable mutual support for each other. I would like specifically thank Ambassador Kezhong Lei, the Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho, for his effective and professional representation of his country here in Lesotho,” said Majoro
“To Ambassador Lei, I would like to thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the substantial grant which testifies to the strengthening of our bilateral co-operation and friendship,” he said.
The new hospital will be a modern facility that intends to provide improved health services to Maseru residents and others, and in particular services including eye care, cancer, TB, HIV, and non-communicable diseases including via telemedicine platforms. The hospital will also have training facilities and dormitories for trainee doctors and nurses and will feature some of the state-of-the-art medical equipment.