Nurses need to be passionate about their vocation – doctor

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-A medical doctor heading Gobabis State Hospital has urged nurses to have passion for the health vocation, as was once demonstrated by Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern professional nursing.

Doctor Leonard Kabongo decried the fact that many nurses, especially midwives at the hospital, are more focused on putting in extra hours for overtime and not on the genuine need to assist the ill and infirm.

Kabongo noted that Gobabis State Hospital has managed to reduce the maternal mortality rate, bringing it to naught. But the hospital is also recording a high overtime claim bill, which has reached runaway proportions, going above the allocated budget.

This is a headache to Kabongo, who points out that midwives at Gobabis Hospital can claim as much as N$700,000 in overtime for one month. Such overtime claims, Kabongo says, are for him indications that health practitioners are not focused on improving the health system and serving with dedication.

“Government gave the hospital N$800,000 for the whole year,” said Kabongo, stressing the runaway costs of overtime claims.

“I cannot just knock off when the baby is coming,” he said, explaining that some midwives respect their time more than the lives of their patients.

Kabongo said if a mother is in labour and there is no other midwife, the one that is present should attend to the patient until the baby is born.

He added that the most dangerous time at a hospital is during handover time, which is when clocking off nurses hand over the care of a patient to the nurses coming on to duty.

“Nobody really takes on responsibility, because one would claim that they handed over the patient while the other would claim that it was not their patient,” he explained.

He further said most pregnant women reach the hospital and deliver their babies safely. However, many die – either during delivery or after being discharged from the health facility.
On a positive note, Kabongo who spoke at the commemoration of the ‘International Day of the Midwife’ on Saturday said Namibia has one of the best midwife fraternities on the continent. He said the country also has beautiful hospitals and advanced medical facilities.

“This is amazing. We are very much advanced, yet our statistics are bringing us down. What are we not doing right?” he asked.

Midwives at the hospital are empowered with a checklist of what needs to be done to improve conditions and it has worked, Kabongo demonstrated on Saturday.

He further said that every year he receives new midwives, “but the number of midwives at the hospital never increases to 40,” he said. “Where are the people going? It’s the same with Katutura and Windhoek Central hospital,” he noted.

He highlighted that innovative ways are needed to bring change in the health sector in order to complement the resources used. “The salary of a midwife here is the salary of a doctor in another country. Why are we not getting it right?” Kabongo asked.

He also said comprehensive obstetrics care is needed, as most mothers deliver in health facilities “yet they die and their babies die”. He said it was a challenge to start with a new team so often, because just when a team is getting it right they are transferred to another department.

“That is something that we changed in Gobabis Hospital,” he said, noting that midwives were encouraged to continue serving at maternity wards and only those who did not like it there left.

“The checklist we introduced focuses on those areas. We empowered nurses with the checklist to make decisions,” Kabongo added, explaining that only doctors are allowed to discharge women after delivery.

He further added: “We want to empower midwives to do more and to take decisions. Midwives do everything yet wait for the doctor to discharge.”

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