Health Ministry Meets to Spruce Up Image

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By Petronella Sibeene

OTJIWARONGO

A high-level Ministerial Management Committee meeting of the Ministry of Health and Social Services started here yesterday with the aim to address critical issues that have put the ministry in the spotlight in the past few years.

During the past two years, the ministry faced criticism related to poor performance, wrong attitude of nursing staff towards the people they ought to serve and non-functionality of facilities, among others.

Some of the main factors cited as contributing to unsatisfactory service
delivery in the health sector are shortage of health professionals, old medical equipment and lack of transport.

Minister of Health and Social Services, Richard Kamwi, in a peppery 23-page statement said “now hard-work and service delivery” shall be the slogan of the ministry. Participants comprise 13 regional health directors and other managers in the ministry.

Permanent secretary in the ministry, Kahijoro Kahuure, said the meeting would set the tone on the path the ministry will take from now onwards.

“The ministry has been in the spotlight for long and it cannot continue to be ‘business as usual’. We need to work in such a way that these criticisms are erased,” he said.

Kahuure disclosed that since the last meeting held last year, all decisions taken for implementation lag behind.

He stressed that the ministry should unearth its own failures and work towards increasing the pace of the ministry’s exertions at all levels if it is to achieve its set goals.

“Some staff have been in the ministry for years and yet they fail to implement programmes,” he bemoaned.

The PS urged regional health directors to come up with working brigades, identify critical issues of concern, and tackle them head-on.

He expressed concern over the lack of ability of most ministry officials to set
targets and work towards achieving them, adding that this has contributed largely to poor performance at different levels.

The ministry is among the few that have failed to submit performance management reports to the Office of the Prime Minister for their work to be assessed.

“By the end of this year things should be different. Let us focus and ensure that decisions taken here are put into practice,” Kahuure told the delegates at the meeting.

In the same vein, Kamwi urged his staff to ensure that the Ministry’s strategic plan meets the deadline set for March. He said there is no room for indecision.

He stated that the time has come for staff to learn to effectively communicate and share information.

“Without timely, efficient and continuous communication and information sharing among management, this ministry will not function well,” he said.

Head office will ensure that communication remains open and information flows freely to the regions and vice-versa, the minister told the meeting.

Other measures to be implemented will be quarterly progress reports to the headquarters by regional directors. The move, the minister said, will enable
the headquarters to support the regions and enable them to chart progress.

“I hope all of us are united in our resolve to serve the people of Namibia to the utmost of our abilities. Let us make 2008 a year of excellent, efficient and timely service delivery,” the minister said.

The meeting will come up with ways in which the Third National Development Plan (NDP3) will be implemented in the ministry for the next five years.

Kamwi says the meeting will create a platform to address the content of the document that provides the framework and detailed courses of action towards achieving Vision 2030.

Health Challenges Outlined

Shortage of health professionals remains one of the biggest challenges in the health sector.

According to Kamwi, training and retaining of professionals is one long-term and sustainable way of addressing this persistent problem.

In the interim, the ministry has introduced “task shifting” that involves introducing a new and supportive category of workers to reduce the workload of nursing professionals.

He urged management to consider recruiting a specified number of youths from the National Youth Service to fill the gap of health professionals. The nursing support worker would assist with nursing care under the direct or indirect supervision of a registered nurse.

The cadre can assist with work such as handling linen, collecting X-rays and specimens from the laboratory, collecting patient files and answering telephone calls.

Kamwi stressed that the person will receive proper training, be registered by the relevant regulatory body and have a legally defined scope of practice.

Shortage of health professionals has long compromised the delivery of
quality health service.

The minister also bemoaned the fact that a number of clinics are staffed by one nurse. This has created a situation where Namibians are deprived of health services when such a nurse goes on leave. He called on district and regional primary health care coordinators to urgently address the problem.

Lack of transport in most regions is one of the problems affecting health delivery for years.

Kamwi announced that under the current financial year, N$15 million was allocated for transport. With the funds, light delivery bakkies, VW Golf sedans, Toyota Hi-Ace 16-seater buses, Toyota Hilux double cabs for outreach services, Nissan Hardbody bakkies and Toyota Dyna trucks for patient transfer and administrative support services, were purchased.

Further, 15 Toyota Qantum panelvan ambulances were purchased.

He expressed concern at the rate the vehicles are being delivered to the regions.

The minister said the ministry has received a number of the much-needed medical equipment through the Namibia-Finnish project.

It is the responsibility of regional directors and chief medical officers to ensure that the equipment is well looked after and maintained.

The ministry expects containers of medical equipment from Medshare International in the United States.

“The containers are on the Atlantic Ocean on ship and are due to arrive at the Port of Walvis Bay by February 22,” said Kamwi.

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