Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku was shocked by the appalling conditions at Aussenkehr clinic, which he described as a “human tragedy”.
During a visit to the clinic on Tuesday, Haufiku was appalled by the conditions in which the clinic operates and vowed to take swift action to remedy the situation. He said the steps his ministry’s would undertake immediately would be to put up a temporary health structure, a tent and temporary mobile toilets as well as to provide two or three additional nurses and a clerk, while an ambulance should be dispatched to the clinic by the end of the year.
“That is a human catastrophe in the making, it’s not something to threaten our existence, but it’s very bad,” Haufiku said, describing the atrocious conditions at the clinic in the southernmost part of the country. Currently the clinic has only two staff nurses, who are responsible for a population of some 35 000 people.
This means each nurse has about 17 500 patients to take care of and if on average one nurse treats about 30 patients a day, it would take over one year and 218 days for all 17 500 patients to be attended to. This scenario assumes that each resident gets sick only once in a year.
The clinic lacks infrastructure and has only two treating rooms. The nurses say in any cases whereby a woman waiting to deliver occupies one room while a very sick patient occupies the other, the rest of the patients have to be sent back home.
“There are too many people and two nurses are not enough. This pressure is not normal,” said Sibongile Olulumteeke, a registered nurse in charge of the clinic.
She says she has never seen anything like it in her entire career: “I have never worked anywhere where you are forced to turn away patients like here.”
The enrolled nurse at the clinic, Johannes Untjanga, also echoed his colleague’s sentiments, stating that the pressure on them is too much and the clinic is always very busy, with never-ending queues. “I cancelled my studies, because I couldn’t cope anymore,” he said, adding that: “I’m the nurse and the doctor at the same time.”
Community members at the clinic expressed their frustration and dissatisfaction with the situation. Some claim things are so bad that some days only four people are treated for the whole day and the rest are sent back home.
Local resident, Christiaan Dimbindo, expressed concern over the shortage of nurses, the long queues and the closure of the clinic during weekends. “What kind of a health facility goes into recess? Are we not supposed to get sick during the weekend?” he asked.
The two nurses on duty work from 08h00 to 17h00 and t are on standby after they knock off. The clinic is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, with only emergencies being attended to.
Conditions at the clinic have been a cause of concern to local residents for some time. In 2011 media reports had it that a woman was forced to deliver her baby in the middle of an undeveloped sports field after she was turned away from the clinic.