Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku says the State needs an emergency transport system that can take patients from a lower to a higher level of care without wasting any time.
While addressing a medical doctors and dentists’ forum at Ongwediva Bennies Park on Tuesday, he said distances between health centres, State hospitals and intermediate hospitals are just too vast and because of the distances patients have to travel many lives are lost.
He said airlifting patients would be the best option and he has already consulted the minister of defense, as well as the minister of works and transport to help in airlifting patients from remote areas to intermediate hospitals.
He said he has also written a letter to the president to seek an audience in the matter. “I’m just waiting to hear from his (the president) ofﬁce as to when I can see him for the brieﬁng, because we want to use NDF helicopters to ﬂy our patients from Katima to Rundu, thereby cutting the deadly road transportation of patients.
“We also think it’s appropriate to ﬂy critically ill or traumatised patients from Opuwo to Oshakati by helicopter, as well as ﬂying by helicopter our medical staff from Opuwo to Onyuuva to render medical services there, instead of patients spending two weeks on the road to Opuwo,” Haufiku said.
On average, he noted, it takes eight hours and two tyre punctures when traveling from Opuwo to Onyuuva. Thus it makes economic sense to assign a State Learjet to airlift patients from Luderitz, Katima and Oshakati, who urgently need ICU care or other tertiary medical services in Windhoek.
Apart from airlifting patients from remote areas, Haufiku said medical outreach would save also lives and at times is cost effective. He said medical outreach is a necessary intervention to mitigate against ﬂooding of patients to Windhoek, Rundu and Oshakati by taking the needed services to the regions and districts.
Outreach serves as a teaching and sharing opportunity for district medical ofﬁcers and interns, as well as nurses and health workers. It also affords an opportunity for visiting doctors to see the type and state of equipment available in specific health facilities.
Outreach thus offers a bird’s eye-view of what is happening on the ground, as opposed to lengthy reports from the regions, thus prompting more immediate actions from the responsible ofﬁce. The practice was, however, met with resistance by some medical practitioners, who accuse the minister of distracting them from their work, as they do not see the need for it.
“I was told of equipment’s unavailability at regional hospitals and that they did their own outreach already. And threats of resignations have been thrown at medical superintendents. I look at resignation the same way as suicide… Don’t say it, just do it!” said an irate Haufiku.
He further warned against bad attitudes of some doctors towards patients and junior medical staff, including students, in State hospitals. He cautioned against creating a “kings and queens mentality”, and the “small gods and goddesses attitude”, as well as individualist approaches adopted by some senior medical staff.
“Attitude is a silent destructive tsunami in our systems… too many kings and queens. I’m hearing horrible things, which if they are true, are even criminal cases that warrant investigation and if found wrong, they must attract penalties,” the health minister remarked.
“A junior intern at Katutura Hospital alleges that a consultant on ward rounds once asked another intern whether she is thinking with her brain or with her uterus. This is horrible and tantamount to sexual harassment,” said Haufiku.
He further cautioned medical professionals at the event to make sure resolutions from the forum are implemented and progress is tracked.
“Let me just caution that doing business without tracking progress or proﬁt is worse than not doing any business at all. We must, therefore, track our progress in all our dealings, monitor and evaluate our activities and improve where we need to,” he said.