Windhoek-The Oshana regional leadership has been asked to propose two sites in either Ongwediva or Ondangwa for the health ministry’s architects to assess the suitability of building a referral hospital.
The Ondangwa Town Council is also free to include in the proposal the site, which they had earlier earmarked for the district hospital, with the health minister Dr Bernhard Haufiku saying the referral hospital would be built there should architects find the site suitable.
Haufiku, in an exclusive interview with New Era, said the region had until June 30 to make its submission.
“We said okay, we leave it up to you, you tell us what sites you have identified, and architects would see if this site is truly suitable and make recommendations on which site is applicable. I have gone so far as to tell Ondangwa you can include the site you have earmarked for us, for the architect to say if it is suitable,” he said.
The minister made it clear the health ministry is not favouring one town council over the other, as portrayed in the media. In fact, he pointed out that Ondangwa was earmarked to have a district hospital by 2018, according to the ministry’s roadmap adopted in 2012.
The roadmap was put in place to address shortcomings and the needs that came out in a presidential inquiry in the provision of health in the country.
According to Haufiku, the data shows that the majority of patients who are referred to Khomas Region come from the northern regions. And hence it was agreed there should be a referral hospital in the central north, in Oshana Region, to cater for the northern regions including Kunene and the two Kavango regions.
“Overwhelmingly, and we have the data, more than 60 percent of referrals come from the north. We need a referral hospital in the north, central north,” said Haufiku. “We consulted with town councils on where to put it. We agreed it should be in Oshana,” he said.
“I want to put it on record that in any of the documents here, there was never a mention of a referral hospital being built in Ondangwa,” said an emphatic Haufiku.
The town of Oshakati was earmarked to have a referral hospital by 2023, but the idea was set aside after the infrastructure there was found not able to cope.
Unlike a district hospital, a referral hospital is a hospital that takes care of complicated medical issues, such as surgery, high care, specialised surgery, and all complicated medical care. A patient would need to have seen a nurse at a clinic or a doctor at a district hospital who would then refer them to the referral hospital to get the needed medical care.
Ondangwa was not the only town earmarked to have a district hospital. Nkurenkuru and Rosh Pinah are also to have district hospitals. Haufiku nevertheless says the financial downturn means the plans for district hospitals would have to be shelved for a while, and attention be given to the much needed referral hospital in Oshana.
“The referral hospital would be the belt that cuts the transport of people to Khomas. We thought it is prudent considering there are people who want to invest money in this project,” Haufiku said in reference to private partners who have expressed an interest to invest along with the government in the hospital.
“If we see that the situation is not moving we can go to plan B, even building it by ourselves without involving town councils. We can see who is willing to donate the plot or where we can buy the land at nominal fee. But the referral hospital is important,” he said.
Nevertheless, Haufiku reveals that the government is still to iron out many details of payments and costs with private investors. And it is also looking at reaping a portion of money from researchers, and there would be a private ward and medical tourism to get patients from neighbouring countries.
“That is why we are looking at 900 beds or even 1,000 beds if possible. We have not even concluded the financial deal with this partner yet. There is nothing guaranteed at this stage and the issue of squabbling would just make things worse. Investors are fickle people, they can up and go,” he said.