By Surihe Gaomas
With the Ministry of Health and Social Services in its worst post-independent crisis, the overall morale among nurses is at an all-time low.
The nurses feel overworked and stressed because of the poor conditions.
When New Era visited the two main referral hospitals of Katutura and Windhoek Central yesterday, sentiments among medical personnel – especially nurses – were that the working environment was heavily strenuous. Some nurses feel unappreciated.
“We are critically understaffed because we are only three here attending to over 50 patients in this hall,” complained one nurse at the Katutura State Hospital.
“The work is really a lot. We work a seven to seven shift, and we are simply just stressed,” she said, not wanting to reveal her identity.
“We would like to have more qualified staff to come and help us out because the work is really just too much,” said another frustrated nurse.
What makes matters worse for most medical personnel is that the general public are quick to blame them, while their hard work goes unnoticed.
Public criticism of nurses has been rife over what is perceived to be poor performance and deteriorating health standards in public health facilities in the country.
One of the latest public health sector woes was when a power-supply disruption occurred at the Windhoek Central Hospital during surgery. A similar power outage occurred at Rundu and Keetmanshoop hospitals. These incidents were followed soon afterwards by a water shortage problem at the Katutura State Hospital.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba recently voiced concern about the situation of health services in the country and urged the Health Minister and his management to rectify the matter.
” We should not allow our health facilities to deteriorate and become dilapidated,” said President Pohamba at the time.
On Monday of this week, the Head of State also paid a surprise visit on the Katutura State Hospital to assess the situation on the ground, and called on the Health Ministry to put its house in order.
In reaction to the President’s call, senior health managers have been in consultative meetings to find way how best to address the many challenges facing the public health sector. Among them are delays of payment of bills to suppliers, the absence of hot water at hospitals, the wear and tear at clinics in rural areas, high vacancy rate, lack of customer care. The current health staff are unable to meet the demands of health services in the country.
In the meantime, nurses feel they are left out of decision-making. According to the Secretary-General of the Namibia Nurses Union (NANU), Abner Shopati, the entire management style in the public health sector does not take into account the critical role played by nurses except for their deployment at hospitals and clinics.
“The morale of nurses is very low. There is no change on the ground. Management can go ahead and plan, but the people who are going to implement these plans are the nurses. The relation between management and staff is not good, and this situation must change,” said Shopati.
He said the whole collapse of the public health sector should be blamed squarely on management. “Management must take the blame because the management style is not friendly or open – although they claim to have an open door policy,” said Shopati.
Due to this situation, nurses remain frustrated and overworked, and their current working conditions will have to change.
“Many nurses have resigned, and we are practically doing everything around here. Our voices are just not heard as nurses,” said another nurse from the Windhoek Central Hospital.
Nursing staff suggest that, in order to change the public health crisis, there must a change in management – a management which, according to them, will “listen to our voices as nurses.”