Windhoek-Support staff at the Ministry of Health yesterday blocked Health Minister Dr Bernard Haufiku’s vehicle during a peaceful lunchtime demonstration that almost became emotionally charged after he seemed to ignore them.
During the protest, in which workers expressed concerns over a range of issues at the Katutura and Windhoek Central hospitals, Haufiku stepped out of the ministry building, but passed by the demonstrators without saying a word. After putting his briefcase in the car, the minister got into his car to drive off, much to the chagrin of the assembled workers, many of them cleaners, who then blocked the vehicle so it would not move.
Demonstrators organised by the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), braced the rain to make their concerns heard.
They only allowed Haufiku to leave after Lesley Mosegedi, a Napwu branch coordinator, asked them to let the minister go.
Among issues cited in the workers’ petition was the shortage of ambulances at the two hospitals. In this regard, it was claimed that the entire Khomas Region with a population of over 350,000 people has only six ambulances, instead of the required minimum of 15.
Health facilities were also said to be short of emergency care practitioners.
“Currently when the ambulance is going out, only the driver [accompanies] the patient, meaning there is no one looking [after] the patient in the ambulance,” reads the petition in part.
The workers also alleged that TB patients share cutlery with other patients, who thus at risk of infection. They further claimed uniforms for cleaners were consistently stolen because of poor controls at the hospitals.
The demonstrators also complained of a shortage of cleaning materials, outstanding overtime payments and that some of the ministry’s vehicles were in use while they are not roadworthy.
Dr Andreas Mwoombola, the permanent secretary in the Health Ministry, told demonstrators that management needed at least 14 working days to study the petition before they respond.