Anaesthesiology: Unam’s new post-grad degree

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-The acute shortage of anaesthetists in the country, in particular the public health sector, is the main reason the University of Namibia (Unam)’s Health Sciences Faculty is introducing a post-graduate qualification in anaesthesia, next year.

The applications for the four-year course closes on October 15.
The Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Health Sciences campus, Professor Peter Nyarango, on Tuesday said the postgraduate degree – Master of Medicine in Anaesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Management will be introduced next year.

However, the Health Sciences Faculty will initially only admit ten students. There are only eight anaesthetists in the public health sector at present. Eight is nothing, Nyarango added.”

This has resulted in a situation where the eight anaesthetists are overworked, Nyarango noted. “They are tired,” he said of the workload of these health professionals.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services has over 35 district hospitals and the eight specialists cannot be deployed to most of these health facilities because of their small numbers.

“You cannot operate without the services of an anaesthetist. There are some conditions for which time is important. Labour is one of them,” added the dean.

Anaesthetists are needed in an event where a pregnant women has to be rushed to theater for an emergency caesarean section.

The shortage of health professionals and in particular specialists is one reasons Namibia did not score well on maternal mortality ratings, a key target of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which replaced the Sustainable Development Goals.

Further, he said other operations as a result of injury also need the services of an anaesthetist, whose primary role is to provide anaesthesia during surgery.

However, according to a medical online publication, the role of anaesthetists is ever-widening as oftentimes they lead the clinical management of intensive care units alongside other specialisation and work closely with emergency physicians to treat emergency patients.

Nyarango explained that there are patients put on a three-year waiting list to secure the services of an anaesthetist. “A waiting list of three years is long. This means that an emergency can occur, that’s a timebomb,” he added.

Nyarango also said, “When there is an injury, action has to be taken almost on site” and that an anaesthetist is also needed at such times. “Anaesthetists are needed to respond to emergency situations. We are here to respond to that kind of need,” Nyarango said of the importance of introducing the new qualification.

“We did a fully-fledged consultation, including a market survey. Unam has made a decision that we don’t start a programme if its sustainability and the future of the programme is not guaranteed,” Nyarango explained.

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