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MANZINI - A red ribbon that cordons off the entrance to the female medical ward creates an aura of seclusion for what used to be the busiest hall at the RFM Hospital.

From the outside, the ward takes the form of any other office area, but a first glimpse into its inside ushers one to a decrepit and rugged shell, littered with scrappy beds and utensils. It depicts a picture similar to the aftermath of an area whose inhabitants left in a hurry to escape an imminent damnation.


One historical badge of honour for the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital is that it is the birthplace of His Majesty King Mswati III. Having been built in 1930, it is no wonder the facility has reached maturity and has to undergo a serious rethink of its almost a century old infrastructure.

Long-serving Hospital Administrator Leonard Dlamini leads the Swazi News on a guided tour of the ward, while lamenting how it had degenerated to the status of being unfit for human occupation over the years, owing to scarcity of funds for renovation. In March this year, medical staff felt threatened working in the ward and soon thereafter, it was condemned by occupational health and safety experts.


Patients were transferred to the government hospitals in Mbabane and Mankayane and the ward was locked.
As soon as we trudge across the hallway, a black cat emerges from the scraps and paces about, probably expressing discontent with the sudden invasion of its privacy. Dlamini shoos it away and it scampers for the exit. From the dusty entrance, the way soon leads to a hallway with scrappy floors and leaking roofs, while adjacent to it are rooms crammed with old furniture and medical apparatus. 

Dlamini soon thereafter opens the door to the bathrooms, where the ceilings have worn off. “So bad was the ceiling here that it hung from the roof,  necessitating that we completely remove it for the safety of those using it,” he said.

Dlamini explains that the ward is divided into three units – one which accommodates patients who are diagnosed with lung infectious diseases such as TB; another which is a recovery room with lesser hazards and the third which accommodates those who are not diagnosed with infectious diseases.
The first unit still had patient beds neatly placed in coherent rows, but without any bed linen. A snaky silver pipe hanging from the roof in the middle of the room captures our attention. It is an air purifier.


Dlamini explains that it plays a very essential role in filtering the breathing air in the wards so that patients and relatives do not circulate toxic breathing air.
“But it is broken. We have to replace it because of its important role,” he says.

He then tries to close an open window, but fails. After exerting more effort, he still fails and concludes: “Most of these windows no longer close because they are old. We would have to replace them when we get the help to renovate the ward.”


Though it is said that a bright and clean paint can psychologically assist a patient to recover from illness, this medical ward does nothing in the way of assisting. The white and yellow paint on the walls is fading and looks depressingly dirty.
The tour concludes with a look around the ward, which has lost its well kempt lawn due to it being unused.


The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the RFM, Benjamin Simelane, says the 48-bed ward needs to be reopened soon to accommodate the high number of patients from the Manzini region.  During an earlier interview, Simelane explained that the hospital feels incomplete without a functional female medical ward.
“The hospital has to fulfil its mandate of serving the region. Without this ward, that mandate is threatened,” he said.
He said an estimated E1.2 million is needed to rehabilitate the female medical ward and reopen it.

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