KELVIN MBEWE, Luapula
THE decentralisation agenda has been on Government’s schedule since independence in 1964. It has been Government’s desire to take its services as close to the people as possible.
Implementation, however, has been gradual because of various setbacks.
However, the Ministry of Health has taken its decentralisation agenda a notch high. The ministry has embarked on the construction and upgrade of healthcare facilities around Zambia to enable citizens acquire health services at their doorstep.
Apart from the 650 health posts that are being constructed across the country, Government is also building 39 district hospitals.
Huge sums of money are being spent to ensure that every Zambian has access to good health services.
Recently, Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya was in Luapula Province to commission 11 health facilities built at a cost of over K4 million.
The health facilities that have been built in Luapula Province and handed over to the local communities are Musambeshi, Kubi, Matende, Shikalaba, Musumali, Nsumbu, Mwela, Mulonga, Kanseke and Musesha health posts as well as a maternity wing in Kawambwa.
The health posts were commissioned in Mansa, Mwense and Kawambwa.
Dr Chilufya, who was in the company of Luapula Province Minister Nickson Chilangwa and other government officials, said the programme is in line with President Lungu’s decentralisation agenda of providing universal health services as per Patriotic Front (PF) campaign promise.
The decentralisation of health services has cheered various stakeholders and beneficiaries in particular.
Chief Matanda of the Ushi people is one of those that are happy with Government’s decentralisation agenda in the health sector.
“During campaign you said that once we vote you in, you would lobby President Lungu to construct health, school, roads and other facilities closer to the people. Here we are today, commissioning two hospitals in my chiefdom and two in Kanseke and Mulonga. Do not stop this good work,” he said.
Chief Matanda said people in his chiefdom will no longer walk long distances to access healthcare services.
“The young, the old, and the women were really struggling to go to health facilities because of long distances. Today, that is a thing of the past, I am very grateful, thank you so much and may God bless you in your endeavours,” he said.
And residents of Luapula Province have thanked government for taking health care closer to them.
Headman Shakalaba of Shakalaba village said residents of the area will no longer walk long distances to access health facilities.
“Our women and children were the most affected as they had to travel 10, sometimes 20 kilometres, to access health services at the nearest health centre here in Kawambwa ,” he said.
And Doreen Chewe of Musambeshi village said Government has demonstrated love to the people of Musambeshi.
“Please do not stop attending to our needs. We used to have women giving birth on the way [to the clinic] due to lack of a nearby health centre but it’s now on our doorstep. We are really grateful,” she said.
Apart from building health posts, Government is also constructing and upgrading general hospitals.
Kawambwa General Hospital in Kawambwa is one of them.
The project, which will cost K40 million, is in two phases. Phase one has already been completed. The general hospital will also be equipped with a nursing school.
Dr Chilufya, who visited the construction site recently, said the general hospital will create over 350 jobs when it opens.
“We expect that the first phase will be opened before the end of this year. We will have more than 150 new jobs created at the hospital. With the completion of the second level, we will add another 200 jobs once the hospital is fully operationalised.”
The nursing school will be called Kawambwa School of Nursing.
“And I must mention that in addition to opening this hospital, it will also have a nursing school. We will open a general hospital here and a nursing school at the same time. We expect that in addition to Mansa School of nursing, St Pauls School of Nursing (in Luapula Province), we will have Kawambwa School of Nursing,” the minister said.
Dr Chilufya said the construction of a general hospital in Kawambwa is timely considering the many investment projects in the province which will create high demand for healthcare services.
“We have many investors coming to invest in cassava, sugar and tea production, and this will increase demand for health services. So it is important that we move with time and create appropriate infrastructure to match the anticipated boom,” he said.