Non-training of specialists in primary health care, non-maintenance of infrastructure, ageing hospitals, shortages of crucial equipment and the procurement of health equipment without prior consultation with operators on the appropriate equipment needed, are but some of the many problems besieging the public health system.
In addition, service delivery in the public health sector “has not been up to scratch”, Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, told New Era in an interview on wide-ranging issues affecting the health sector.
To improve the attitude of staff, the ministry is working on a turnaround strategy for service delivery.
“We are going all the way not only to train and re-orientate but also to monitor on a day to day basis, literally meaning that we will delegate someone to walk around the hospital to see how service is being delivered, even from just the initial greeting [of patients],” said Haufiku.
The minister also spoke of “a misalignment of procurement of equipment in the ministry that we must accept and this is what we have been rectifying in the ministry in the last couple of months, perhaps even earlier before I joined the ministry.” What is needed, Haufiku said, is the need to align the purchasing of equipment with the needs on the ground.
He described the equipment shortage as a shortage of crucial equipment whose procurement would make health service delivery easier.
But he pointed out that while some of the equipment was bought, consultation of the people who use them “when such equipment arrives is completely the opposite of what is required”.
On primary health care Haufiku feels primary health care has been somewhat neglected as there are still challenges with community health workers and health extension programmes, “which are the backbone of primary healthcare”.
“I think the country has neglected training specialist doctors for a while. We adopted primary health care but we neglected the training of specialists. But even with primary health care we haven’t taken it where it should have been by now,” the minister said.
He added that what makes the situation worse is the fact that most specialists work in the private sector where conditions are more attractive than in the public sector.
“We need to improve our conditions of work, whether it’s just the tea room for the doctor or a house for the doctor that you send to work in Rundu, Katima Mulilo or Opuwo – so we need to change that. We are working on them. We embedded them in the new structure that we want to adopt and we want the private sector to work with us in order to have some of these problems solved,” said Haufiku.
“We have ageing hospitals that are not well maintained, that are not refurbished, that are dilapidated and I think it has to do with management because infrastructure will not repair themselves – there has to be somebody committed to that,” said Haufiku.
“This has been a challenge but it’s rather a light challenge and I think we can get to the bottom of that problem,” said Haufiku.