The lucrative M400 million grant to construct the Maseru district hospital stands to lapse following the government of China’s threat to pull the grant, Health Minister Nkaku Kabi said.
Kabi revealed that the outstanding task from the Lesotho side was to demolish the 100 year-old Queen Elizabeth II Hospital before the Chinese government can begin its construction plan.
The minister disclosed that following an ever increasing demolishing price demand by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport has forced China to threaten the pull.
“Initially, Works requested M8 million as the demolition budget. In the next financial year, they increased the demolition budget to M12 million saying that M8 million is for the demolition of the building while M4 million was to clear the construction area.
“It came as a shock this financial year when Works demanded an influx of M28 million which is too high. We can’t afford that much money,” Kabi said.
He noted his ministry was granted the M12 million when suddenly Works presented an influx.
Queen II 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.
“China agreed to build Lesotho a very big hospital. The problem we are having right now is the high cost of demolishing imposed to us by the Ministry of Public Works. We approached the ministry to help us but they set their budget to M28 million, which is too much.
“This sudden influx has forced China to threaten us saying if the problem to demolish the hospital is not solved by the end of this month, they will take their funds,” Kabi disclosed.
The district hospital will replace Queen II, it is set to cost about M400 million.
The district hospital according to Kabi will have training facilities and dormitories for trainee doctors and nurses.
“Once completed, the hospital will also become an important training base for Basotho doctors and nurses. The floor area is expected to be 2 1330 with 10 storeys.
“It will be handed over to Lesotho fully equipped with relevant medical equipment,” said.
Kabi told Newsday that if it was up to him he would look for Basotho men who would take their hammers and tear down the walls of Queen II.
He said, “I am sure it would cost us only M2 million for them to bring it down saving us a lot of money.”
Mothabathe Hlalele, Works Principal Secretary in a separate interview with Newsday said the hospital’s demolishing will be done as soon as Health Ministry signs the relevant documents.
“Health is the one that is prolonging the work by not signing the necessary documents. They know that no one can do that work except the Ministry of Works. The money that is needed for the demolition is set by engineers who know what has to be done.
“I edge Health to stop talking about Works in their conferences while Works is not there to defend themselves. It has become a tendency in the government that when a ministry is not doing well, it shifts the blame to another ministry,” the PS charged.
He added, “Health should concentrate on giving patients medications, ha ba tsamaee ba lo enta bakuli koana ba tlohelle ho re oela (they should go and vaccinate people and stop bothering us), they should leave issues of construction to us.”
“If they do not like Works, they should go to the cabinet and ask them to remove us as a ministry all together. Queen II would have been demolished if Health is doing its part,” Hlalele lashed.
After its closure, Queen II transferred all services to the new multi-million maloti Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital known as Ts’epong, which was established through a public-private partnership agreement between the government and Net-Care of South Africa, before reopening it two years later.
The old facility, which for generations was the country’s
largest hospice, offers ante natal care as well as Prevention of
Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV and Aids services to pregnant women.
It also offered post-natal care for mothers and their infants, family planning, immunisation and nutritional services for children under the age of five.