State Health Services Under Heavy Fire

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Government hospitals, clinics and healthcare centres were yesterday in general condemned as unhygienic, filthy and as breeding grounds for cockroaches, that are unfit to treat patients. This came out during a motion tabled in the National Assembly by the DTA’s McHenry Venaani. “Overall, the conditions of the majority of our health centre clinics and hospitals are very unhygienic and many are in a poor state and condition in which patients might be affected by germs brought about by dirt and a lack of cleanliness … the poor state of the buildings some of which the conditions are appalling,” Venaani charged. He informed the House that he had done a two-year research to find out exactly what the healthcare situation under the Ministry of Health and Social Services looks like. “I have realized that the unclean situation at these institutions can be attributed to a lack of proper managing of the cleaning departments thereof. The culture of cleaners is to avoid working during normal working hours, but during the week and to come in over weekends to claim overtime. The culture of reporting their superiors to unions seems to be prevalent, especially in a town such as Karasburg,” he said. Venaani elaborated on his findings stating that untidiness particularly at nursing homes, the lack of hot water in hospitals and the absence of light bulbs are of great concern to him and the general public. “It is further surprising to see that overall, all beds and hospital facilities need an overhaul and at instances a quick fix to repair them to working conditions. Approximately 75% of all hospital beds need a re-spray, but nothing of the sort is happening. Furthermore, hospital bedding theft remains a constant problem, costing the Ministry of Health and Social Services hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Venaani said. He accused the health authorities of providing patients with food that does not comply with dietary requirements. “In many instances, patients are forced to consume what they in fact shouldn’t consume. On top of it foodstuffs are stolen from kitchens and in most cases patients do not receive meals on time. This reflects very badly on the health administration in the country. Our citizenry also experience problems with the long waiting hours to be seen by doctors at such state facilities,” he said. The DTA man claimed that there exists a serious situation of under-utilization of state doctors. “We found that by ten o’clock in the morning, most state doctors are done with their hospital rounds and then head straight for their private practices. Presently, most state doctors have a private practice, a serious situation for state patients. The language barrier also remains a problem to many patients at state medical facilities with Cuban doctors and the lack of training. Many of our professional nurses also leave the service for greener pastures due to unfavourable working conditions and frustrations with managements,” Venaani, who told the House that close to 23% of state-employed nurses are not really qualified, some of whom have bogus qualifications, said. He also complained about the distribution of medicine and drugs to state-owned healthcare facilities. “Due to delays and corrupt practices by staff, many patients have to wait up to six months to receive prescribed medicines and drugs. This is a great concern taking into account that about fifty percent of patients suffer from HIV/AIDS. By and large the Ministry of Health and Social Services is the worst run ministry in terms of service delivery to the citizens of this country. It lacks proper leadership, management, supervision and execution of programmes,” Venaani, who claimed that church hospitals subsidised by the ministry are run more effectively and managed better than state health centres, said. In conclusion, he urged the present minister to provide stronger leadership. “Please take control and accelerate and entrench your powers for full implementation of your ministry’s objectives. Reform the culture of still managing in outdated ways. Our hospitals need to be run by well qualified CEO’s for our people to get value for money. Stop being just a minister opening workshops and conferences and take charge,” Venaani said.

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