By William Mbangula
The Ministry of Health and Social Services has confirmed the presence of meningitis in Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Caprivi regions but said the situation is under control.
Under Secretary for Special Health Programmes and Diseases Dr Norbert Foster said this at a media conference at Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital on Wednesday. Dr Foster was reacting to media reports suggesting that nine cases with one death were detected in the northern regions recently.
The deceased was identified as Lukas Akapa from Okongo constituency in Ohangwena Region who died last month.
Said Foster: “I can confirm that such cases were reported as from August 20, with one death. There are currently two or three cases being investigated at Oshakati and Katima Mulilo under emergency care. In all cases, we are prepared to implement the World Health Organisation (WHO) set standards which say that mass action should be taken if 10 to 15 cases are reported per100 000 people.
“So far, we have not yet reached that stage but as soon as we are there we will embark on large-scale treatment measures.”
Foster assured the nation that there is no need to panic since the situation is under control and is being monitored continuously.
The media conference was attended by the Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi, his Permanent Secretary Kahijoro Kahuure, the Director of Health in Oshikoto Maria Kavezembi, the Director of Health in Oshana, Dr Naftali Hamata, the Head of Onandjokwe Lutheran hospital Dr Phillemon Amaambo and representative of the Elcin Church Dr Vaino Nambala.
The minister told the conference that he was on a visit to Onandjokwe Hospital to have discussions with the leadership of the Elcin Church led by Presiding Elcin Bishop Dr Thomas Shivute and the Rundu-based Bishop Johannes Sindano.
The main issue under discussion was the future relationship between the Government and the Lutheran Hospital. It was therefore agreed that the referral of patients from Eenhana and Okongo Hospital to Onandjokwe Hospital would resume.
The staff establishment of Onandjokwe Hospital will be reviewed in line with its workload based on the staffing indicator norms approved by the Ministry of Health and which are applicable to all hospitals.
It was again agreed that the 1998 agreement between the church and the Ministry of Health and Social Services would be reviewed by a technical team.
Current critical vacancies at Onandjokwe Hospital experienced in certain areas such as nursing, pharmacy and medical services will be addressed in consultation with the regional director of health.
Kamwi also said it was agreed that the infrastructural improvements that need immediate attention must be reported to the relevant authorities for submission to potential donors. The ministry is currently discussing with a number of donors possible assistance for improving health services.
The future of the nursing college at Onandjokwe (enrolled nurses) has been safeguarded in the agreement.
The 50/50 basis funding of capital development projects will be revised in order to ensure that the necessary capital development can be undertaken without delay. Apart from that, regular consultation between the ministry and the hospital authorities will be arranged.
Recent reports said the Government was trying to degrade Onandjokwe Hospital as a referral hospital. This had raised eyebrows not only among the residents of Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions, but also the hospital authorities at Oshakati who felt that their institution was too overcrowded to be burdened with patients bypassing Onandjokwe.
Kamwi denied the reports, saying there has never been such intentions to degrade or neglect the Lutheran hospital.
Asked about the more than N$2 million that was reported missing from Onandjokwe hospital, Kamwi said these were mere speculations and allegations which have been addressed.
Said the minister: “We know there were concerns about the management of funds here but this has now been addressed. There is a committee which will review the financial status of this hospital which will also look into the matter and if there is anything of that nature, they are the only ones who can make an informed statement about the situation.”
Earlier, it was reported in the media that millions were missing from Onandjokwe Hospital, allegedly misappropriated by some officials within the hospital establishment. This had resulted in police investigations. Suspects were arrested and charged.