‘The person who led government when the hospital was closed is not from Maseru (but Qacha’s Nek District); I strongly believe this hospital was only shut down for political reasons, not that it was too old’
Lekhetho Ntsukunyane and Limpho Sello
PRIME Minister Thomas Thabane on Friday condemned his predecessor, Pakalitha Mosisili, for closing down Queen Elizabeth II Hospital three years ago which he said brought untold suffering to Maseru residents.
The 100-year-old hospital, popularly known simply as Queen II, was shut down in September 2011 following expert advice that renovating it would not make economic sense due to its advanced state of degeneration.
A national referral hospital at its closure, Queen II is now a district hospital whose services are going to be limited to the casualty and outpatient departments, antiretroviral therapy, maternal health and child-immunisation.
Speaking at the hospital’s opening ceremony, Dr Thabane said the closure was “political” and meant to punish Maseru residents who have been voting overwhelmingly for the premier’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) since the party’s formation in 2006.
“If I was part of government when a decision to close down this hospital was made, I would have refused. In-fact, I confronted those who were in government at the time, and asked them what their intention was concerning our health as people of Maseru,” said Dr Thabane.
“I was told that we should go to clinics, which came as a surprise to me because I knew that patients should first receive treatment at village health-centres, and if there are complications, go to area clinics. If the problem still persists, patients are taken to district hospitals, and eventually the national referral hospital.
“Their decision made me wonder if by closing down Queen II, they valued this proper chain of how the healthcare system should operate. I took it they undermined us, the people of Maseru, because they are not from Maseru themselves.”
Dr Thabane continued: “The person who led that government (Dr Mosisili) when the hospital was closed is not from Maseru (but Qacha’s Nek District). I strongly believe this hospital was only shut down for political reasons, not that it was too old.
“The people in government at the time undermined the people of Maseru by closing down this facility; they didn’t think much of them because they believe people who live in urban areas are not human enough. They take it that because they come from rural backgrounds, the only people who deserve better things should come from rural districts. That is how badly they managed this country. They forgot we are all human beings.”
Dr Thabane implored the hospital staff to provide excellent services and treat patients with dignity.
“Your work is almost similar to that of God. You take care of people’s lives, which is what God does. This means you can’t compare yourselves with other public servants whose duties include road-construction or crime-prevention,” he said.
“Take myself, for instance. I am the minister responsible for the army and the police. Those people in the army and the police are not nurses like you are. Their work is to arrest criminals and enforce the rule of law. It is unfair that after acquiring knowledge under difficult conditions, you are employed to treat many victims of rape, who are brought to you by law-enforcement agents. It is high time we implement a law which says rapists should be castrated. I hate rapists with a passion.”
Dr Thabane also spoke about lack of human resources in the country’s health sector.
“The reopening of this hospital comes at the right time for Basotho who are currently studying medicine in Zimbabwe and are about to complete their training. It means they are going to be employed at Queen II and in other healthcare centres across the country.
“There are hospitals in all the other nine districts of Lesotho but in Maseru, we didn’t have a hospital until now. Why? It is because we allowed someone coming from a very faraway district to shut down our hospital. However, today is a good day because it marks the official reopening of our district hospital.”
Health Minister Pinkie Manamolela, in her address, credited the hospital’s reopening to Dr Thabane.
“Last year, the prime minister called us for a meeting as a ministry, and gave us a task to revive primary healthcare for the betterment of Basotho’s lives. Today, as we officially reopen Queen II, we mark yet another important milestone the ministry of health has achieved through the guidance of Dr Thabane,” said Dr Manamolela.
Dr Manamolela further said she hoped the hospital would improve the livelihoods of Maseru residents, who have been “struggling for healthcare” since Queen II was replaced by Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital as the country’s main referral hospital on its closure in 2011.
“The World Health Organisation donated M2.7 million for the purchase of an ambulance and other medical equipment that will be needed for the hospital to be operational,” Dr Manamolela further announced.
The Member of Parliament for Maseru Central, Haae Phoofolo of the ABC, who also spoke at Friday’s ceremony, said it had always been his dream to see the hospital operational once again.
“In the run-up to the 2012 general election, I campaigned about reopening Queen II, and little did I know then that it was also Ntate Thabane’s wish,” said Advocate Phoofolo, who is also the Minister of Law, Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs.
“You see, when we campaign for elections, we tend to exaggerate some things but I’m glad this one was not just talk. I campaigned about something that has become a reality today.”