Pests Plague State Hospitals

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK There is widespread concern among members of the public over some state hospitals that are unhygienic despite the great national emphasis on ‘hygiene for a healthy nation’. In spite of the billions of dollars allocated each year to the Ministry of Health and Social Services that runs state hospitals, some hospitals, such as the Windhoek Central Hospital, are infested with bats and other pests. Windhoek Central, the largest referral hospital in the country, is in such a terrible unhygienic condition that it is reportedly a breeding ground for a colony of bats. Even worse is the fact that there are some bats in the operating theatre, posing a risk of infection to those being operated on. The other referral hospital in the capital at Katutura is in a similar situation. It is infested with disease-carrying pests. Also, the hospital at Rundu teems with cockroaches whose numbers are multiplying each week, posing another risk. The swarms of cockroaches at the state hospital at Rundu are said to compete with patients for food. Yesterday, the Director of Health in the Kavango Region, Elizabeth Muremi, confirmed the complaints and confirmed that indeed the problem exists. While health officials in the area have tried to fight the problem by ensuring that the hospital is frequently fumigated, Muremi said, some patients and their attendants could also be held responsible. She elaborated that visitors at the hospital bring food in large quantities that patients cannot consume in one go. As such, leftovers are kept in cupboards that later attract cockroaches in the wards. “We normally advise patients and visitors not to keep food in the cupboards. Our society needs to be educated,” she said. Rundu Hospital has a capacity of 250 beds. Katutura Hospital Superintendent Rheinhardt Gariseb could not confirm the mice problem at the hospital but agreed that the hospital faces overcrowding. He explained that this is because Katutura Hospital was built in 1973. According to him, the hospital was built then to cater for a small number of patients. As Namibia grows not only in terms of development but also population-wise, the demand for health facilities has gone up. The hospital currently functions as a referral facility that serves the Khomas Region and the rest of the country. With a capacity of 831 patients, Gariseb said, most of the referral cases are attended to as fast as possible and patients are then sent back to the regions. This is done to create space for any new cases. “We are strained on resources but despite that, we are trying,” he said. A source informed New Era that the bats in the operating theatre at the Windhoek Central Hospital offer a repulsive sight to patients and their attendants. The source says he is concerned about these creatures as the situation leaves patients at an increased risk of the spread of infections. These flying animals can spread “bat rabies” if a human being is bitten or scratched by them. Contacted for comment on this issue, the Windhoek Central Hospital Superintendent Sara Shalongo would not confirm nor deny the concerns. “I am not in a position to comment,” she said. Ministry of Health and Social Services Permanent Secretary Kalumbi Shangula said that on the cockroach problem in Rundu, the public have themselves to blame. “People like leaving the food in lockers and that is why cockroaches breed,” he said. He confirmed the bat problem at Windhoek Central but added that the problem no longer exists.