* Staff recruitments ongoing for facility built at over P300m * Only two wings are operating at full swing

The people of Okavango constituency can brace themselves for the opening of the P300 million state-of-the-art Joseph Kavindama Hospital in Shakawe to be officially opened soon, Botswana Guardian has been told.

So far, only two wings of the facility, the Laboratory and the Tuberculosis Unit are operating at full capacity.

Information from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoH) states that preparations are at advanced stage to have the 70-bed facility opened before the end of the year. The current population Census shows that Shakawe village has a population of 10 589, with Gumare at 11 572. The facility is named after the late politician and former Member of Parliament for Okavango, Joseph Kavindama, one of the icons of the region that is famous for its rich wildlife, water based safaris and tourism.

Kavindama was not ordinary, but a political firebrand who made many firsts that might prove rather too difficult to replicate in years to come. He would have been the happiest man had he lived to witness the fruits of his labour.

During his time, he never got tired of advocating for the Okavango constituents to be provided with good health and education and requesting for a senior secondary school, hospital and roads to be constructed in his constituency. That won him the favour of many constituents as he later rewrote the history of Botswana politics when he won the Okavango constituency parliamentary seat in 1999 through the then newly formed Botswana

Congress Party (BCP), a breakaway of the Botswana National Front (BNF). He had previously won the same seat under BNF in 1984.

The construction of the facility started on the 3rd April 2017 and was to be completed on 3rd October 2019. However, it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other challenges, and was finally realised on 10th March 2021. Speaking to this publication, the Ministry of Health Chief Public Relations Officer, Dr. Christopher Nyanga said the hospital was built at the tune of P309, 898, 812.20, including VAT.

Nyanga said “the facility is expected to be officially opened before the end of this year. Staff recruitment of the hospital is ongoing”. He said this is a 70-bed primary hospital comprising out-patient services, sexual reproductive health services, maternity, general ward, dental health services, X-ray, laboratory services, obstetrics and gynaecology services, among others, as well as 65 staff houses.

Last year, the first hospital wings to be completed were converted to serve as a COVID-19 isolation centre for the Okavango region.

The facility is the second biggest government spending in the area after the Mohembo Bridge, constructed within the same time. The iconic bridge was expected to make crossing over the Okavango River not only cheaper for government, but it also acts as a tourist attraction.

The bridge is also envisaged to stimulate trade. For decades, crossing the hostile and crocodile infested Okavango River was only done through a ferry, which at times would breakdown.

However, the condition of most roads in the area is not good. Some are completely dusty and sandy, and others, although once tarred have now deteriorated and completely worn out.