There is an acute shortage of health professionals at the Kamanjab Health Centre.
When New Era visited the health centre recently the shortage was apparent, as a cleaner could be seen leaving her cleaning chores to perform administrative work.
An insider in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, revealed that the Kamanjab Health Centre needs nine enrolled nurses, one senior registered nurse, two medical doctors, two ambulance drivers, four cleaners, one labourer, a pharmacist assistant, a cook and HIV counsellors.
Currently, the health centre only has one registered nurse, three enrolled nurses, one ambulance driver and a cleaner – who doubles as an administrative clerk.
“The facility must operate 24 hours a day. There is a shortage of nurses and those who are there are overworked and they can do mistakes since they get tired. We are dealing with human life and these nurses get extremely tired,” revealed the insider.
The health centre has requested for additional staff since the facility was opened in February last year. “A request was made for a new staff structure last year but it has not yet been approved,” an insider said.
Patients who come after hours at times struggle to get assistance because they have to look for nurses while those who are admitted at the health centre depend on meals brought in by their families before the ambulance transports them to Outjo District Hospital situated some 155 km.
The health centre can accommodate more than six patients but mostly pregnant women who deliver are admitted for six hours and if a complication exists they are transferred to Outjo.
“If they don’t have families they struggle on their own,” further said the insider.
The health centre is overwhelmed, as it caters for patients from rural areas such as Erwee, Anker and Oujikavare.
The few nurses provide primary health care, offer antenatal care to pregnant women, counselling and provide services to HIV positive patients.
Four health extension workers have not been paid since last July, one of the health extension workers told New Era they are struggling to make ends meet.
“We work in rural areas where we screen patients and offer first aid but we are working on empty stomachs. It’s winter and some of us don’t have proper blankets and clothes, we are suffering,” said a health extension worker.
Staff shortage at the health centre has affected outreach programmes in the Kamanjab area, as the programmes do not take place on time. Last year, only 24 percent of the outreach area was covered, according to the insider.
“The situation at Kamanjab Health Centre is at critical state. We want to reach all communities with outreach programmes. We miss some months as communities are not reached on planned dates,” the insider added.
Medication is delivered from Outjo District Hospital once a month and in case it runs out, a car is sent especially for critical medication.
Some residents have phoned in on the Damara/Nama radio station to express disappointment over the lack of nurses at the health centre.
There is accommodation at the health centre as well as a house, which was renovated for a medical doctor but they stand empty.
New Era sent an email to the Ministry to Health and Social Services’ public relations officer Ester Paulus two weeks ago but until now she has not responded on the issue.
The director of health directorate in Kunene Region Thomas Shapumba was holed up in meetings the entire last week.