Language barrier hampers health service

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WINDHOEK – The Windhoek Central Hospital has no translators making it difficult for patients to understand what the doctors say to them and vice versa.

Mudi Hausiku, a 72-year-old woman who travelled alone from Rundu and who was recently hospitalized at the Windhoek Central Hospital said she found it very difficult to communicate with nurses because of the language barrier as she only speaks Nyemba, also known as Ngangela.

“When I speak Ngangela with them, they speak Oshiwambo with me and I don’t understand them,’’ the elderly Hausiku told New Era.

“My daughter died of cancer that was spreading in her blood but they didn’t tell me anything until the day she died and I couldn’t ask them what happened. I don’t speak English. Why can’t the hospital find us someone who speaks our language so that we can communicate with them,’’ said the Nyemba-speaking parent who recently lost a 21-year-old daughter to cancer.

Language is a big barrier to people accompanying patients and even for patients not conversant in English or Afrikaans who are being referred to Windhoek from hospitals in rural areas.

“There is a lady who is hospitalized in the Windhoek Central Hospital and she is suffering from goitre, but she cannot speak any of the languages in Namibia and she is from Oshikango, now how are they communicating with her and treating her,’’ said an anonymous person.

Oshikango is the border town in Ohangwena Region and is bisected by the Namibia/Angola border. Namibia currently has a policy to treat all Angolan citizens as a patriotic gesture in reciprocity to Angola having supported Namibia’s war for independence. Another issue that people are concerned about and want government to do something about are the hospital elevators.

The Windhoek Central Hospital’s elevators are broken and when they are repaired they frequently break down again and recently seven people were trapped in a malfunctioning elevator for 45 minutes, which caused a lot of anxiety.

“They should fix their lifts, it is very terrifying to be stuck in a lift and it is not safe for anyone and this is a government hospital, so why can’t they do something about this?’’ said Katrina Joseph, who was also stuck in the elevator.

“You get to the hospital during visiting hours but you have to wait for many hours for the elevators to work and some are out of order and the floor that one visits is far to take the stairway,’’ said one of the people who came to visit a patient in hospital.

The people who visit the Windhoek Central Hospital are looking for answers, and they want the government hospital to assure them that the hospital will deal with the issues raised.

When New Era approached Ester Paulus the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Health and Social Services she said she was on leave and there was no one she could refer this reporter to answer some of the questions raised.

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