- no indication when the job will begin as January deadline looms
DESPITE repeated assurances from senior health ministry officials, the demolition of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital to pave way for the construction of a new multi-million maloti hospital have not yet started and there is still no clear indication when the work will begin.
This is despite that the demolition work is way behind schedule as it had been envisaged that the job would be completed by this month as per the demands of the Chinese government which is funding the construction of the proposed Chinese-funded Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic to replace Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.
The construction of the much bigger Maseru Hospital, which is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people in Maseru and other districts, was meant to have begun in 2018 but that did not happen due to the government’s delay in demolishing Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.
Despite previous announcements by the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, Mothabathe Hlalele, the demolition project is yet to begin.
Three weeks ago, Mr Hlalele told the Lesotho Times that the demolition of Queen Elizabeth II Hospital would be completed this month.
He said the demolition would start “as soon as possible” to get the site ready for the construction of the new hospital.
“The Chinese (donors) said they wanted the site ready for construction by January,” Mr Hlalele said.
During the interview, Mr Hlalele said they were about to set up park homes where the hospital would be housed so that it would continue providing health services pending the completion of the new hospital.
But a tour by this publication to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital revealed that it was business as usual. There was no sign of any demolition work underway and instead, the hospital was operating as normal.
Workers at the hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity said despite promises to relocate them, nothing had been done and hospital equipment had not been moved to the new premises they would operate from while the hospital was being demolished.
“We have been told time and again that we will soon be relocated but nothing has happened so far. To my knowledge, no equipment has been moved either. We are in the dark as to when we will be moved. All we can do is wait,” said one of the health workers.
Yesterday, the Deputy Minister of Health, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli said processes of relocating the hospital were “at an advanced stage”. However, she did not giving a specific timeframe when this would be accomplished.
After missing the 2018 demolition deadline, the government has been under increased pressure to demolish Queen Elizabeth II Hospital.
As the government tarries, sources privy to the developments have said that the costs of demolishing Queen Elizabeth II Hospital have shot up to M39 million from the M30 million the Public Works Ministry had initially said was required for the job.
On his part, Mr Hlalele will not confirm or deny the reports of the budget escalation.
“I will not comment on the budget. At the moment I cannot say whether it has increased or decreased. That will be communicated officially at a later stage. You will have to wait for an official announcement at a later stage,” Mr Hlalele recently told this publication.
The Chinese government last year pledged an additional M400 million to bring its total funding commitment for the construction of the Maseru Hospital and Eye Clinic to M800 million.
China initially pledged M400 million when the two governments signed a funding agreement in December 2017, but the Asian economic giant has since resolved to double the funding commitment as part of its improved development assistance package to Lesotho.