General patients at Opuwo State Hospital, some of whom travel up to 150 kilometres to seek medical assistance, are turned away on Tuesdays and Thursdays as the seven nurses on duty have reserved those days to attend to pregnant women.
This means that general patients seeking medical help are only attended to three days in a week because on weekends only emergency cases are treated.
The Chairperson of the Kunene Regional Council Management Committee, Julius Kaujova, and Kazeongere Tjeundo, the Councillor of Opuwo Rural Constituency, expressed concern yesterday about the services provided at the hospital.
The hospital, which only has the capacity to treat about 60 people daily, deals with at least 250 patients on a busy day.
This has resulted in many patients seeking medical assistance at hospitals such as Outapi and Tsandi in Omusati Region.
“People who are in a lot of pain end up going back home without being treated. If they are lucky they are attended to once the nurses are done with the pregnant women,” Kaujova said.
Kaujova said the public have been complaining bitterly about the arrangement by management of the hospital that nurses only attend to expecting mothers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The majority of pregnant women who come for antenatal services travel from villages close to Opuwo as well as remote villages.
The maternity section only deals with delivery cases (strictly for when a woman is giving birth), said Tjeundo, hence the nurses have reserved the two days for antenatal service. Other cases are attended to as soon as all pregnant women have been seen to.
What makes it even more difficult is the fact that the hospital opens at eight in the morning and closes at five, said Tjeundo. “At night the hospital only deals with emergency cases and only the casualty department is operational. People coming from villages queue as early as one in the morning with hopes of being attended to early,” Tjeundo explained.
In addition, there are only four doctors at the hospital, Kaujova added.
“Those hard-working doctors also have many referral cases to attend to so they too are very busy,” said Tjeundo.
“The distance that people have to travel in search of medical assistance is just too far. Some of these people are pensioners who have to use their pension to seek medical help,” said Kaujova who is also the Councillor of Sesfontein Constituency.
He said that the nurses are not to blame as they are under tremendous pressure. “The patients are more than the nurses,” added Kaujova.
Kaujova and Tjeundo as well as five other councillors of the Kunene Region on Tuesday met with management of the Opuwo hospital. The latter revealed that they are addressing various problems to make health care services more accessible for everyone.
“The queues at the hospital are just too long,” said Kaujova. However, the hospital management revealed that the hospital would in the near future be upgraded to accommodate more patients and doctors.
“The hospital management revealed that plans are at an advanced stage to extend the hospital to accommodate more medical personnel and patients. A tender to this effect was even advertised in the newspaper. We just hope that the process would be done fast so that construction can commence early next year,” said Kaujova. Although the hospital was approved to be a referral hospital that process will only be finalised in 2023, said Kaujova.
Furthermore, patients who have to undergo X-rays and sonar scans are referred to the Oshakati State Hospital, said Kaujova, who lamented the inadequacy of the medical equipment at Opuwo hospital which obstructs health professionals from carrying out their duties effectively.
“There are days when four ambulances at a time have to transport patients to Oshakati (hospital) because of a lack of facilities,” said Kaujova. Opuwo is home to about 13 000 people.