Anyone who accessed health services at Katutura Hospital in the past two weeks would have noticed a different environment of cleanliness, as opposed to the filth patients have become accustomed to over many years.
New Era visited the hospital yesterday morning and what greeted this reporter was the welcome sight of cleaners who actually seemed keen to ensure the hospital and every ward in it is almost spotless. Although minor hiccups remain, such as the seemingly stubborn stench that has besieged the hospital for years the medical superintendent at the Katutura Hospital, Dr Nelago Amagulu, was adamant that the new look is not temporary.
Amagulu said the main aim is to serve patients, who often do not have the luxury of accessing the very costly services of private hospitals – at a standard similar to that of private hospitals, if not better.
This transformation emanated from months of unrewarding meetings with cleaning staff and “persistent comments in the media about the state of hygiene at the hospital,” Amagulu said. The maternity ward was one of the filthiest wards at the hospital, where waste, blood and urine on floors were not an uncommon site, she admits. The maternity ward is where newborn (babies) are brought into the worldand every mother deserves to bring life into this world with dignity, she said. A clean maternity ward is a step in the right direction inasmuch as it provides the dignity that many who access the services of this hospital were robbed of for many years. Amagulu was quick to add that the maternity ward was previously a gathering place for mice, rats and cockroaches.
“I thought to myself: ‘That’s enough. At the end of the day I’m the one accountable for the proper running of this hospital. The buck starts and ends with me,’” said Amagulu, who admitted she had to lobby intensively for the cleaning services to be outsourced.
“Yes, the hospital is old,” she admits, “but that’s not an excuse for the hospital to be dirty.” The medical superintendent further stressed that the general attitude towards work at the hospital, particularly of government-employed cleaners, was pathetic. Patients who are supposed to receive dignified treatment were not often the first priority, something she believes is changing for the better. “We, as hospital staff, are apathetic. We care more about ourselves than patients,” said Amagulu, while insisting that things are changing for the better. “It’s about what is in the best interest of the patients,” she added.
Cleanliness at the maternity ward is crucial at all times, because that is where women bring life into this world. Thus, the maternity ward was strategically chosen as part of piloting outsourced cleaning services, she explained. In order to curb maternity mortality and morbidity, hygiene is one of the crucial aspects at the hospital, Amagulu noted.
“This hospital has really changed for the better. It’s very clean, especially the toilets,” remarked Uazepaijie Tjazerua, a 22-year old mother of three, who also delivered her bundle of joy at the maternity ward of Katutura Hospital. Tjazerua, who seemed eager to talk to New Era, added that the food provided has also improved.
She is not the only one who is impressed by the upgraded service at the hospital. However, the question on everyone’s lips is whether the hospital will maintain and even improve on this standard. “My prayer is for the whole hospital to be outsourced”, Amagulu responded.
She feels that although the outsourced cleaning services only commenced officially on March 1, the change is just breathtaking. “We’re receiving positive feedback and my wish is for the cleaning service at Katutura Hospital to be outsourced,” she said.
The hospital staff, and in particular the leadership of the hospital, are beginning to deal with their core functions and not worrying so much about supervising cleaners, she added.
“There is a different work ethic now,” Amagulu said with a sense of pride. Three areas have been outsourced, namely the maternity ward, the ground floor and the basement of the hospital.
The ground floor, she motivated is “the public face of the hospital”, an area the majority of people use to access various health services offered at the hospital, hence the decision to start there. The basement is the storage area and hence equally important, she noted.
Steven Kandjeo, the spokesperson of the cleaning company contracted to provide the cleaning service, said: “Hygiene at hospitals can’t be overemphasised. This is where hygiene must start.” A dirty hospital is a breeding ground for disease and cross infections, he concluded.