Rural Health Service Under Spotlight

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A PICTURE of doom and gloom concerning the public health sector and agriculture in basically all the northern regions visited has been painted by a report on economic development that was yesterday tabled in the National Council. A report on rural development by the Standing Committee on Regional Development under the leadership of Hilma Nicanor, Swapo MP in the National Council (NC), was yesterday tabled in the House. “The mission of the committee was to visit hospitals, health centres, clinics and to learn about the working conditions of health professionals and patients. We were also mandated to visit certain agricultural projects in six northern regions,” Nicanor told the NC. According to her, health professionals such as doctors and nurses in rural areas perform their duties under challenging conditions. “They have to make do with limited resources at their disposal and health care centres are under-staffed. At times, these centres also experience a lack of power and water supplies. Often they have to work without support staff and their remuneration is not a good reflection of the circumstances under which they work. Furthermore, their accommodation is inadequate and the sector struggles with ambulances, which are in short supply. A special remuneration and benefit package should be designed for rural health workers to attract qualified personnel,” Nicanor suggested. In her view, the physical state of some of the health centres her committee visited is bad. “The new casualties and psychiatric units at Oshakati State Hospital do not meet the standard building requirements. The burglar bars and fencing at the psychiatric unit is not up to standard, whilst the casualty department’s waiting room is without air-conditioning and small in size, resulting in patients having to withstand the excruciating heat and overcrowding. The entire Outjo Hospital complex is dilapidated: some wards are without bedding, ceilings are loose and hanging down and the mortuary is not in a good working condition. Generally, the hospital is not fit for human habitation,” she stated. According to the report, resettled farmers in the Kamanjab area complained that the allocated land is too small for livestock farming. “There is almost no grazing available for the animals. Some farmers indicated that they have no documentation to prove that they are the rightful owners of allocated land to them. The Government is requested to give due consideration to this matter. “The Linyanti Constituency in Caprivi – the situation is worse pertaining to telecommunication, the supply of potable water and rural electrification,” Nicanor, who urged Government to give special attention to areas with a total lack of basic facilities, contended. “The road network in some rural areas is of great concern to the committee. Roads that are constantly in bad condition negatively affect service delivery to isolated rural locations such as ambulance services, especially during the rainy season when roads become completely inaccessible,” she said. The committee urged Government to constantly consult the regions with regard to the financing of rural projects and initiatives to avoid having a budget with superficial impact on rural development. “The aim of this report is to cast light on some weak spots, which the Government should rectify before it is too late. Another pressing problem hampering rural development is negligence on the part of those charged with the management of public institutions in the regions,” she stated.

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