Public hospitals run out of sterile gowns


Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The Ministry of Health and Social Services has confirmed that it has run out of medical sterile materials used in the operating rooms of hospitals, particularly at Windhoek Central Hospital, which is the country’s biggest referral theatre hospital.

This admission came following Affirmative Repositioning (AR) activist Job Amupanda having received some alarming images from concerned young doctors at the Windhoek Central Hospital on the unhygienic and unsafe working conditions they are exposed to.

The images, also seen by New Era, show a doctor in the operating theatre wearing wrapping paper instead of a standardized sterile gown as prescribed by the World Health Organsation (WHO). The images also show used syringes being disposed of in empty Coca Cola bottles, instead of prescribed syringe disposal containers.
In an interview with New Era yesterday, the superintendent of Windhoek Central Hospital, Dr David Uirab, admitted the crisis.

“It is true that we had problems … as a result, we had a shortage of sterile gowns. All the local suppliers had run out … and the South African suppliers took some time to supply [us]. The hospital was forced to suspend elective surgery for one day as we could only provide sterile gowns for emergency cases,” Uirab acknowledged.
Without specifying the exact date of delivery, Uirab said the gowns has in the meantime been delivered.
In addition, he confirmed that new gowns are also on order to augment the number of gowns they have at the hospital.

Asked whether the doctor in theatre in the image is from Windhoek Central Hospital, he said: “I do not know whether the interesting looking outfit in your picture is indeed from our hospital.”
As to the use of plastic bottles to dispose of syringes, Uirab noted infection control protocols require that all used ‘sharps’, which include needles and blades, should be deposited in a container provided for the purpose and the container as a whole is then incinerated afterwards.
Most of the times, he said, they use commercial containers.

“However, if any healthcare professional had used another plastic container, this was probably an innovation, improvising while awaiting the supply of the regular containers. The important point being, these sharps should not be left in the open at any time,” Uirab defended.

Amupanda blamed the government for compromising the health and education systems in the country while they trim the bloated public administration.

“No matter what problems you have, you don’t comprise on your health and education. The fact that they are now compromising on the health and education sectors – why not touching the political sector? The advisors are still there, people are still travelling for many days for their holidays. It’s so clearly that we are moving towards an era of structural adjustment programme. These people are doing these thing to impress the IMF [International Monetary Fund] –they are always having secret meetings while they compromise the health of our people,” Amupanda reacted.

Structural adjustment programmes consist of loans provided by the IMF and the World Bank to countries that experience an economic crisis, but with stringent conditions attached.

Amupanda argued that people on medical aid in Namibia are less than 300,000 – meaning that two million people in the country depend on government hospitals.

Therefore, he says, this shortage of sterile materials is to affect two million people.
“Clearly once you see people compromise the health sector, clearly we are in a crisis, although people don’t want us to tell the truth. We are in trouble and all of us must all become activists before our country goes to the dogs. We will continue to speak up and confront those in power to save our country.”

He said the reason the young doctors tipped him off about the situation in the surgery rooms is because “they see there is a serious crisis”.

He noted that the young medical professionals believe that once he acts, then such issues will get the attention they deserve.


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