By Petronella Sibeene
Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi says he plans to employ seven refugee nurses from Osire Refugee Camp as his ministry strives to beef up its skeleton health personnel at the camp where thousands of refugees from different African countries are housed.
The move is also aimed at employing qualified nurses whose skills are being wasted for the simple reason that they are in a refugee camp.
The seven are a mixture of Angolan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) nationals currently not employed given their refugee status in the country.
Kamwi during his familiarisation tour to Osire Refugee Camp on Wednesday said the ministry was prepared to take seven qualified nurses into its staff establishment.
Two of the seven will be assigned to Otjiwarongo Hospital that is reported to have a critical shortage of nursing staff.
The minister acknowledged that his ministry is experiencing a shortage of nurses and medical doctors at most health facilities.
However, it is consulting with various councils and exploring the possibility of having refugee cadres employed in the services of the ministry.
” The ministry will soon authorize some cadres to practise their respective professions in Namibian health centres. Their skills are a valuable resource that could be used in the provision of health care delivery services to the Namibian population,” he explained.
He added: “Osire has become not only a centre for habitation but also a place for human resource.”
The minister urged officers in charge at the refugee camp to always inform the ministry about refugees that have authentic qualifications in the medical field.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) will renovate two houses to shelter the-soon-to-be appointed nurses.
He also announced that Osire Hospital would now be called Osire Health Centre.
The name change comes after the UNHCR announced its rationalization process, which will result in a reduction of its support activities.
Kamwi says the ministry will resume the provision of health care delivery services and the centre will be re-classified according to the norms and standards of the ministry.
“The re-classification of the hospital to a health centre will result not only in the reduction of costs but also the optimal utilization of both financial and human resources,” he added.
Health staff at the refugee camp health centre comprise of one medical doctor, one HIV/AIDS coordinator, one enrolled nurse (matron), six clinical nurses, one head of health promoter, three health promoters, four cleaners (including laundry service), three cooks, one gardener, one assistant pharmacist, one community counsellor and one mortuary helper.
The centre receives an average of 1200 patients every month. About 30 of these are new arrivals. The centre handles close to 20 antenatal cases monthly and the most common disease in terms of admissions is pneumonia.
The disease of outpatients is upper respiratory disorders, Dr Mpelo Victoire who works at the health centre said.
He explained that the clinic only attends to patients for 48 hours before they are referred to the Otjiwarongo hospital, which is about 110 kilometers.
The centre has female, male, paediatric and maternity wards among other facilities.
The malnutrition rate stands at 3.5 percent while last year it recorded 206 deliveries.
The minister commended the work carried out by health practitioners at the centre, saying that once the health status of the refugee population is in good shape, the ministry will be at peace.
“I observed that they (health practitioners) are doing well and the number of deliveries is commendable,” said Kamwi. He however encouraged Otjiwarongo Hospital to consider organizing refresher courses for the staff.
Despite stories of success in health at Osire camp, the staff lamented that the centre has been operating without an ambulance for some time. They said that during an emergency, they have to transport patients in vehicles not designed for carrying patients.
UNHCR Country Representative Joyce Mends-Cole said the ambulance will be delivered to the centre in a few weeks’ time.
Osire Refugee Camp was established in 1992. In 1998, it had a population of about 20 000.
Today, there are about 8 000 refugees. They hail from Angola, DRC, Burundi and Rwanda.