By William Mbangula
In-patient facilities at the Onandjokwe hospital will soon be reduced in order to have the hospital conform to its status of district hospital.
Such reduction is expected to affect the health services in the north, considering that Oshakati Hospital is the only one that serves as an intermediate facility here, with 750 beds.
Permanent Secretary of Health and Social Services, Dr Kalumbi Shangula, confirmed this to New Era, adding that the arrangement will be made to ensure that each hospital serves patients based on its capacity.
Shangula explained that health facilities are divided into categories, namely, national referral hospital (such as Katutura), intermediate (Oshakati), district (Onandjokwe), health centres and clinics.
Currently, intense discussions are under way to find an amicable solution to what appears to be a stand-off between the government and the Elcin Church. Some health experts say the reduction of the in-patients capacity of Onandjokwe hospital which has 450 beds will place a great burden on Oshakati Hospital.
Onandjokwe Hospital is run by the Lutheran Medical Services of Elcin Church and receives subsidies from the government. It has been serving as a referral hospital for Okongo/Eenhana (Ohangwena Region) and Tsumeb (Oshikoto Region).
For some time now, Oshakati hospital has been without two wards, which had to be demolished because they were dilapidated. Now the hospital, with 40 doctors that serves the entire region of about 8 653 square metres, is overcrowded.
Given the current health and social situation in the region, Health Director Dr Naftali Hamata has expressed concern over the scarcity of resources and the cost of running health services in the region. Serving a population of close to 180 000, with 5 311 children under one year and an estimated 5 488 disabled people, the Directorate of Health in Oshana Region faces financial problems since the demand for health care has become overwhelming.
For instance, noted Hamata, the regional office received N$5,5 million but ended up spending N$9 million. About N$17 million was used to build a laundry facility and buy relevant equipment for Oshakati Hospital.
In order to run the only intermediate hospital in the region, which is Oshakati, close to N$110 million is needed.
So far, only Okatana Health Centre out of five centres in the region can admit patients. Lack of resources has stretched the provision of services, mostly in the outlying areas that includes 11 clinics of which Okaukuejo, the most remote of all, is one.
Due to the remoteness of this clinic, the Ministry of Health and Social Services is working in conjunction with Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) to transport emergency cases to Outjo. At least 20 patients visit Okaukuejo clinic daily.
Despite the lack of financial resources, the regional office intends to create more clinics at Eloolo, Oupumako, Onaushe, Oikango and Oneshila location.
In order to meet some of the challenges, said Hamata, his office focuses on staffing of management and operational levels, construction and maintenance of facilities, controlling and strengthening of campaigns against diseases and expanding immunization programmes (EPI).
One serious concern at the moment is the increase in HIV/AIDS related cases from 25 percent in 2004 to 27 percent in 2006, which makes it public enemy number one.