The minister of health, Nkaku Kabi says the ministry has finally resolved to go with the option of spending M16million to demolish Queen Elisabeth II Hospital, putting to rest a protracted wrangle with the ministry of public works which had costed the project at M29million.
Controversy has for the better part of the year clouded plans to demolish the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, after it emerged that two different amounts of money have been budgeted for the exercise which is intended to create space for construction of a new China-funded hospital.
The 105-year old former largest referral hospital is earmarked for demolition, and fresh information in June suggested the ministry had budgeted M8million to take it down while the ministry of finance had set aside M16 million. Government had before that paid an estimated M2million for ‘refurbishment’ of the hospital, which later turned out to have been a mere repainting of walls.
“We wrote to the ministry of finance informing them that we did not have enough money to top up our budget; we asked them to talk to their contractors to work within our budget or leave us to find other options,” Kabi said.
Kabi told the media in Maseru this week that the ministry had taken it upon itself to make a decision based on the funds at its disposal, despite the public works ministry having insisted that the contractors it was negotiating with had complained of insufficient time to make their determination.
“At the moment, the ministry is under pressure because the Chinese government, which is bankrolling the construction of a new hospital to the tune of M400million, is now complaining that they have given us too much time to demolish the current Queen II structure.
“We have asked the ministry of finance to give us the money and allow us to proceed with selective tendering, which is in the best interests of the public and will save time. In the midst of all this, the executive is not impressed. The ministry does not have any more time to waste. The Chinese have threatened to rescind the funds if we do not demonstrate commitment to tearing down Queen II to make way for the new hospital.”
On the other hand, public works principal secretary Mothabathe Hlalele, initially threw tantrums when this publication requested him to cast some light on how the ministry had arrived at the M29million it had costed to demolish the hospital.
“I have addressed this matter numerous times in the media. It is not fair for me to keep commenting on the same issue over and over again with journalists not taking a new angle to the project. Otherwise you will have to convince me why you are so interested in this matter which is no longer news,” he said angrily.
However, when he had finally cooled down, he said they have been informed that the ministry of health was not in a position to adjust its budget to the requirements of the companies that were vying to demolish Queen II.
“We have started negotiations with potential contractors based on the stance adopted by the ministry of health. This is not an easy job, as there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when demolishing the hospital. These include making sure not to tamper with the underground sewage and water piping, as well as the electricity wiring which could prove dangerous if not handled with care.
“Queen II Hospital is situated in the centre of the central business district (CBD). An impact assessment was conducted and it informed the costing of the exercise. Not to mention the removal and relocation of machines used at the hospital, and many other factors that the environment experts may look into,” he concluded.