Windhoek-Health minister Bernard Haufiku has called for a downgrade of the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) from its current status as a state-owned corporation to be a mere department within the ministry. The minister told parliament on Monday that NIP is to be placed under the auspices of the yet to be established Namibian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), and asked fellow lawmakers to support the ministry’s legislative efforts to establish the NIPH.
The NIPH, says Haufiku, would “not be a state-owned enterprise but an agency tasked with disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and preparedness, medical disaster management, research and development and training of public health experts including field epidemiologists”.
Yesterday the chief executive officer of NIP Augustinus Katiti told New Era that he would not be able comment on decisions taken by his political head, other than to say he would support whatever political decision was made.
“I support whatever proposal made by my political head – any questions regarding that can be forwarded to the minister,” said Katiti, without elaborating on whether or not NIP has already been made aware of the legislative steps to return it back to a ministerial department.
NIP came into existence in 2000 by grouping 23 laboratories of the health ministry into a corporate entity, with the purpose of providing professional technical services to the ministry. Today, NIP employs 450 people and manages 40 laboratories. For the financial year ended 31 March 2017, NIP recorded revenues of N$635.3 million, up from N$453 million, and a profit of N$121 million. Its total assets are now valued at N$550.8 million.
Motivating the health ministry budget of N$6.5 billion, Haufiku told lawmakers that establishing NIPH, and placing NIP under that institution, is the only way towards having “a stronger and resilient national disease surveillance system [that] will solve or at least mitigate the country’s future problems”.
“I believe the training of the public health experts component of the NIPH could suitably be placed at the University of Namibia School of Public Health,” he said, adding that the technical consultations that are currently ongoing will determine the modalities and scope.
Meanwhile, Nampa reported on Monday that NIP employees are threatening to take NIP management to the Labour Court, should it not meet their demands of a 10 percent salary increment, transport and housing allowance.
The aggrieved workers on Monday handed over a petition directed to NIP Board Chairperson, Dr Diina Shuuluka, in which they call on the institution to honour the collective agreement signed on 9 November 2017. “We demand our 10 per cent increment as from the 25th of April 2018, or we will have no other option but to approach the Office of the Labour Commissioner for arbitration,” the petition reads.