By ‘Majirata Latela
The BRAVOPRO (Pty) Ltd is waging a legal battle against the ministry of health for alleged failure to pay the company millions for erecting the park homes for use by the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital at the Sebaboleng site of the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO).
Speaking to theReporter BRAVOPRO (Pty) Ltd company director and project manager, Rantsubise Matete, said the meetings his company held with the ministry were not fruitful as the latter declined to pen down the agreement to pay the remaining M1.550-million.
“Among other issues in the agreement was how the ministry was to pay the remaining balance so that we can hand them the keys to use the park homes.
“A date was set for the signing of the agreement, but when the day approached, the ministry was now not interested to sign the deal and chickened out. We had no choice but to continue with a court case that we had already filed as they were now not interested to settle out of court,” he said.
On the other hand, the ministry’s chief technical officer in the estate management department, Mosilo Mosehle told the newspaper on Wednesday this wek that the deal has been signed and that the facilities would be opened soon.
Mosehle declined to give further details saying she was so busy to attend to questions regarding the facility.
“I am currently in a meeting, what were you saying? ‘M’e you wrote a story last time, now what do you want? I am not in a position to say anything about the park homes because we have signed the agreement and the park homes will be opened very soon,
“I will be busy for the whole of this week and next week. I will not be available to talk anytime soon as I am presently dealing with issues of Tšepong,” she said contemptuously.
However, she asked to be contacted over the weekend.
Recently, the tabloid wrote an article exposing a disuse of park homes erected at the site. They have since turned into white elephants while the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital continues to be crowded with patients seeking health services.
The hospital operates in a small building in the area, making it impossible for patients, nurses and apparently doctors to adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 protocol of social distancing.
The M7.6 million park homes were supposed to be a temporary hospital for Queen II while the new M800 million Maseru District Hospital is being built by a Chinese firm Shanghai Construction Company.
It was in February 2020 when the ministry of health announced that the building of the park homes had already commenced but more than a year later the park homes are still lying unused making it impossible for the hospital to fully be operational.
Despite covid19 statistics growing in numbers each and every day, the hospital is still operating in congested space where it is hard to observe social distancing.
On its visit to the temporary premises at Sebaboleng last month, theReporter observed the congestion which has been an everyday bitter pill to swallow for patients, nurses, doctors and the hospital administration.
Many of the patients were seen waiting outside the premises in groups; others sat on chairs outside the hospital. Those inside sat so close to each that social distancing was not practised, thereby posing more posing a danger of spreading the highly contagious virus.
Some of the patients who had come for services were seen basking in the sun with open wounds bleeding.
Nursing mothers also waited in the cold with their new-born babies despite the health ministry’s warning to the public to practice social distancing as another tool to avert the transmission of the deadly virus.
But in this setting it is not unusual for many patients, nurses, doctors and pharmacists to be crammed in one room.
Mosehle last month told the paper, that the erected park homes could not all fit into that space given the advice by disease control that the structures should not be so close to each for safety reasons.
“The site which was selected for the park homes could only accommodate nine park homes, so we need four more park homes to complete the number of those required by the hospital.
“The space where the remaining three park homes are to be erected has already been identified at Sebaboleng and, by June 2 2020, the park homes will have been completed.
“The reason why it took so long before the hospital could operate from the rest of structures is that there was some misunderstanding between the health ministry and the company that erected the shelters. The company eventually prohibited us from using them,” Mosehle said.
She said according to the agreement, the company was paid 60 percent of the total cost at the beginning of the project. Now, she added, the balance to be paid out to the company stands out at M1.550 million.
Although she could not detail any further, she said the company had sued the government and that the matter was agreed to be settled out of court.
The park homes should have been in use by November 2020 after a plan for completion in June last year.
Matete on the other hand said there has been a lot of drama going on with the park homes from the day of their completion.
He admitted a 60 percent stake was paid to the company but the wrangling began when it demanded the balance to be paid out.
“When we finished the nine park homes which fitted in the area we asked the ministry to pay us the remaining amount of money that was due to us but we realised that they were taking forever to find and fix the place where we were to erect other remaining park homes.
“We showed the ministry that we did our part and the delay was on their side resulting in us taking them to court. The ministry does not want to pay us and we have bills to settle. They are dragging their feet to avail us space to erect the remaining structures.
“We have been waiting for the platforms for five months. Now our patience is running out,” said Matete who completely denied the matter had been settled out of court.
He clarified that the company consulted with the former health minister Motlatsi Maqelepo who instructed the then principal secretary to issue payment.
Matete said it was possible that the structures were under threat of damage “because it is now more than a year since they have been unused.”
He said more plumbing works and ablution facilities were also to be made at the shelters in order to promote hand washing by patients and the hospital staff to protect against Covid-19 contraction.
“We are also still awaiting the ministry to also approve our appointment for adding more plumbing on the park homes because they have requested that due to Covid-19 people will need to wash hands more often and that meant adding more work to what we have delivered,” he said.