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Hi-tech LDF Clinic goes 5 months without water

Tsitsi Matope

clinicThe Lesotho Defence Force Health Centre located near Lower Thetsane has been without running water for the past four months, creating a potentially hazardous environment for both patients and staff.

When a Sunday Express crew visited the clinic yesterday morning following an anonymous tip-off, the stench inside the facility, which is not owned by the army but government, was so overpowering patients could be seen covering their noses as they sought to escape the unbearable odour.

The Sunday Express was later told all the four toilets inside the clinic have been without running water since November 2013, following a plumbing defect that remains unfixed to this day.

Clinic staff could yesterday be seen carrying buckets of water they had fetched from a tap outside the clinic, and pouring it down the toilets they use.

In addition to flushing the toilets, the staff could also be seen using the water to clean the patients’ waiting and consultation rooms.
One worker was busy spraying air-freshener in the patients’ waiting room to dissipate the unbearable odour.

Yet this is supposed to be a facility where the sick receive treatment to get well — a situation sarcastically mentioned by some of the patients, who spoke to the Sunday Express.
“Without running water in the critical rooms where patients receive various services and in the toilets, the control of infection is compromised. This is not supposed to be happening right here in a clinic situated in the heart of the capital city,” one of the clinic staff who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Every working day, the clinic attends to more than 100 patients from areas such as Ratjomose, Ha-Tsolo, Ha-Lesia, Qoatsaneng, Katlehong, Hills View and Maseru West, it emerged during our visit to the clinic yesterday.
“The clinic has since stopped attending to patients who come with serious injuries or wounds because of the water crisis.
“These are being referred to other clinics. Ideally, we need running water in all the examination rooms for effective infection-control,” the worker said.

She explained that although it seemed nothing was being done to resolve the water problem, a report was made at the District Health Management Team last year.
“Some workers from the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) who came here in November told us they were unable to detect what was wrong with the plumbing system. Since then, no other attempt has been made to try and fix the problem,” the worker said.

The state-of-the-art, LDF Health Centre was constructed through the Millennium Challenge Account-Lesotho and officially opened in September last year.

The grand American initiative also facilitated the construction of new and upgrading of about 50 clinics around the country in a bid to ensure Lesotho has improved infrastructure.

Yet, hardly half-a-year after the official opening, both male and female patients who seek services at the LDF clinic now use the same toilet, which yesterday was messier than some public toilets found at bus stop areas in the central business district of Maseru.
“I wanted to use the toilet but as you can see, someone messed up the whole place. How can both men and women use the same public toilet when we use the facility differently?” one of the patients, ‘Mamohau Seutloali, said before she
was led to one of the clinic’s staff toilets.

While it has since become the responsibility of some workers to regularly fetch water to flash the toilet and clean it, this has unfortunately not always been the case.
“The problem is we have other duties and as a result, we are failing to cope with this new responsibility. “Fetching water for every patient who would have used the toilet is not practical at all,” said another clinic staffer.

Contacted yesterday for comment, the WASCO Public Relations Manager, Lineo Moqasa said she was not aware of the water situation at the clinic.

The Head of the District Health Management Team, Dr Nyane Letsie, on the other hand, said her office was aware of the water crisis and has been making efforts to have the problem fixed.

“We can’t do much because the problem is technical and beyond us. However, I tasked the maintenance people to deal with the matter and get to the bottom of the problem. Definitely the situation must be rectified as soon as possible,” Dr Letsie said.

Dr Letsie further said the clinic had “a unique” water system different from that installed at other clinics and this could explain why the pressure of the only working tap is very low.

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