Sunday 18 April 2021
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Nurses fake “illness” to dodge heavy workload

Nurses at the Windhoek’s Central Hospital Premature Unit have seen their work load more than double because of understaffing, a situation that has led to nurses faking illnesses to get booked off so that they can rest.
Some nurses, who spoke under anonymity, claim the nurse to patient ratio is a risk to babies’ lives and, as expected, the quality of care given to babies is of a lesser quality than the required standards.
The premature section caters for babies delivered under critical situations and subsequently cannot be in the care of their mothers yet. Speaking under anonymity, at least three nurses who spoke to this reporter expressed disappointment in the current health system, saying they are expected to work longer hours with an additional workload, yet they do not receive an extra income. Nurses accused the health ministry of failing to replace the nurses that left the civil service to join private health care  establishments.
“They could see that the staff turnover is high but the authorities just sat back without devising strategies to fill the gaps,”lamented one of the nurses.
“In the past, we used to be almost 10 on a shift. Today you would find five or only six nurses on a shift. This can translate to a ratio of 16 babies per nurse. You now have a situation whereby nurses are forced to absorb the absence of the other nurses, meaning longer working hours and sometimes unpaid overtime,” bemoaned one of the nurses.
They also claim that the situation has forced other nurses to leave the profession as they cannot cope. “Many of the nurses started leaving because they cannot cope with the pressure.
Others will arrange to have them booked off for two weeks on ‘sick leave.’ It is not that they are really sick but simply tired and need time off to rest.”
According to the nurses, they raised their concerns with management, calling for more nurses to be recruited, but these cries fell on deaf ears.
“All you are told is that there is no money. It is shocking to see leaders increasing their salaries every year but you are told that there is no money to save lives. Are they prioritizing lives or money?” queried one nurse.
Approached for comment yesterday, health minister Dr. Bernard Haufiku said the issue is known to the authorities but pointed out that the lack of adequate resources is a major stumbling block.
“As a sector, we are understaffed everywhere and not just the central hospital. Hospitals like Okongo only have one doctor. So we are trying to do our best with what we have.”
Haufiku said the health sector is a critical sector at large and the premature unit just happens to be amongst the most vulnerable sections. He adds that the ministry has the appropriate structures but funding remains to be the challenging factor.
“When we look at the challenges in the health fraternity, we should look at it as an entire sector. We have to resource the sector be it with equipment, staff and financially. But on top of that, we also need qualified people who are efficient and accountable, said Haufiku.
The ministry over the years has send out students to study in the field and Haufiku said a group of about 800 students will graduate early next year. The students are expected to answer to the shortage of nurses in the fraternity.
“We are trying our best, but even with these nurses, we lose many of them to the private practices.”
Haufiku further added that his ministry is in talks with the Finance ministry where they are asked to submit a business case that will see how the two parties will resource the limping ministry.

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