Officials at public healthcare facilities, especially nurses, have been placed on notice and will face stern consequences if they fail to effectively carry out their responsibilities, the permanent secretary in the health ministry Dr. Andreas Mwoombola has said.
Mwoombola said henceforth, he would not hesitate to wield the axe on under-performing nurses.
He said this in an official circular dated 16 October 2017 under the heading “Basic Nursing/Patient Care”.
The warning comes at a time when the public healthcare system continues to be laden with complaints from members of the public expressing their displeasure at the attitude of healthcare officials and the general state of the public healthcare system.
Doctors and nurses are being bashed right, left and centre by the public for services they are delivering. Once, they were celebrated nobles but it now seems like they have turned into villains because of the increasing tales of medical horrors and inexcusably poor medical care.
“It has been brought to my attention that patient care is sometimes left to the relatives and friends of the patients in hospitals and healthcare centers. Patient care is a fundamental aspect of nursing in particular and healthcare providers in general, and should be applied at all times to all in-patients and those presenting at a health facility who may be in need of basic nursing services,” said Mwoombola.
In recent weeks, social media was showered with video footage of nurses busy on their cell phones instead of attending to patients. In one of the videos at Okahandja State Hospital, nurses were idling keeping busy on their cell phones instead of attending to patients.
In another incident last month a mother, Peelina Nghikumwa, lost her baby at Engela in northern Namibia after nurses allegedly refused to assist her.
“Regrettably, we still find staff on their cell phones instead of providing undivided attention to patients despite such practices having been provided. I once again appeal to all staff of this Ministry to diligently and efficiently carry out our responsibilities in order to give meaning to our motto of “Your Health, Our Concern” as well as the social contract that we have entered into with our people through the Patient Charter,” he said.
Mwoombola was referring to assistance such as hair care, giving and receiving bedpans and urinals, bed-making, assistance with feeding, back care, mouth care, dressing, personal hygiene and skincare as well as mobility of patients.
“Reports also indicate that we are not providing proper care after death, such as cleaning and preparing the body before the relatives view the body and insuring privacy. The close relatives need to be informed about the death immediately and in an emphatic manner,” said the PS.
He called on supervisors to ensure that all staff members, especially nurses, are aware of his message.
“Rest assured that I will not hesitate taking action against any staff member and his/her supervisor who fail to adhere to these and any other directive,” he warned sternly.
The public healthcare system has over the years played second fiddle to the private healthcare system, with many opting to spend thousands of dollars in pursuit of perceived better service.
Although Minister Bernard Haufiku and Mwoombola’s arrival at the Ministry in 2015 saw them ringing some much needed changes to change the status quo, the situation on the ground continues to lag behind.
The duo have been making every effort to correct the shortcomings in the health sector as quickly as possible.
But despite that, the doctors and nurses working within the Namibian public healthcare system remain the face of the healthcare system and their behaviour therefore significantly impacts the public healthcare system-be it positively or negatively.
A nurse who spoke on the matter to this publication on condition of anonymity this week said: “Even though we are simply employees of the organisation, we are the patients’ access point to the system. When they need to wait an unreasonably long time to be helped, we are the ones telling them to wait. When there is no medicine, we are expected to relay that them. So the authorities also need to get their act together and ensure that we have adequate resources at our disposal to execute our tasks.”
The nurses added: “We cannot be expected to deliver if we do not have the means to. It is not all the nurses who operate their cell phones at the expense of the patients, therefore PS should single out those who are guilty of doing so instead of generalising the situation.”