Chinese boost for health sector 

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Bereng Mpaki

THE Chinese government will soon build a state-of-the-art hospital known as the Maseru District Hospital and Eye Clinic Project that will act as a referral centre for patients and remove the need to transfer them to South Africa and other countries for special medical attention.

This was revealed at yesterday’s signing ceremony dubbed the ‘Exchange of Letters on China Aid’ between the two governments at the Chinese embassy in Maseru. Construction will begin before year end.

Development Planning Minister Tlohelang Aumane represented government of Lesotho while China was represented by its ambassador to Lesotho, Sun Xianghua. The ceremony was graced by the Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki.

Maseru has been without a district hospital since the closure of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital (Queen II) in 2011 when Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital (QMMH), which is a referral hospital came into operation.

This resulted in the overcrowding of patients at QMMH which compromised service delivery at the facility.

The new hospital will be built on the site of the Queen II Hospital.

Zou Mengliang, from the Economic and Commercial Counsellors office at the Chinese Embassy in Maseru, told the Lesotho Times that after the signing ceremony the next step would be the designing of the project which would determine the costs of the project.

Speaking during yesterday’s signing ceremony, Mr Moleleki expressed optimism that the new hospital would ensure patients are given the best health care within the country.

“Let me draw your attention to a tragic event that took place one week ago but which has been a trend over the 51 years of Lesotho’s independence, Mr Moleleki said.

“The trend has been that when our prime ministers, former prime ministers, queens, senior people and the rest of our society are seriously ill they have to, of necessity, be taken to other countries for medical attention and often they come back to Lesotho in coffins.

“This unfortunate trend which has been our way of life and which we have come to take for granted will come to an end as a result of this magnificent project,” Mr Moleleki said.

His sentiments were echoed by Dr Xianghua who said, “The Maseru District Hospital and Eye Clinic Project will be the single largest infrastructure project that China gives to our brotherly Basotho to date”.

“Once built, the current situation that Maseru as the capital of Lesotho does not have a district hospital will change and the public health system of Lesotho will be greatly enhanced.

“More importantly, the Maseru District Hospital as a specialised hospital, will provide quality health service and thousands of Basotho will not have to go to foreign countries for medical treatment,” Dr Xianghua said.

Dr Xianghua further indicated that the new hospital would also be a training centre for junior doctors and nurses.

“I am confident that once this hospital is completed, with a floor area of 21330 square metres and equipped with relevant equipment, it will bring tangible benefits to thousands of Basotho every year and in many years to come. It will become a telling example of China-Lesotho friendship and cooperation in this beautiful Mountain Kingdom.”

China’s commitment to the Lesotho’s public health project is a result of the Forum of China- Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2015 Summit plans for China to give more assistance to African countries. Dr Xianghua said more projects were lined up for Lesotho.

“Meanwhile, under the frame work of FOCAC, we are currently in discussions with our Lesotho counterparts on some other major projects and in the near future, our discussions will be finalised and more projects will be implemented.

“The signing of this agreement is only the first step in a long march. The building of a new specialised hospital is quite different from other infrastructure projects that we have done in Lesotho. Its design, equipment installation and operation are a complex process which needs our close collaboration and cooperation.

“A number of ministries, particularly the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Development Planning will be involved in implementing this project.”

For his part, Development Planning Minister, Tlohelang Aumane, said the costs associated with transferring patients outside the country would also be reduced and “the savings accrued can be used to finance other activities”.

He further said that the strong cooperation between the two countries has seen China supporting Lesotho in various projects over the years.

He said other projects that would commence soon include the Maseru Fire Station project, construction of Lesotho Agriculture Products Warehouse and Logistics and the Maseru Waste Disposal project.

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