Lives of patients seeking specialized treatment are at risk as public hospitals are lacking the necessary equipment for assisting such cases.
This is despite the long standing problem of Namibia having inadequate numbers of medical specialists to cater for the population.
The lack of basic but essential critical hospital equipment has forced private doctors to turn away from state hospitals, with many citing that operating theaters have become unfit for operations.
Last week, private doctors bemoaned the short supply of ‘swabs’ – a basic need used on a daily basis in any medical facility. Swabs are used to clean and treat wounds. They are also useful during any operation for hygiene purposes.
“This is the simplest thing we need in a hospital, it is really difficult to do anything without it. But that is just the tip of the iceberg because there are many other things that would discourage you from operating at a state hospital,” said a private doctor who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The doctor noted that they are at times forced to postpone operations due to missing equipment.
“We had an instance where we had to postpone an operation because the ventilator was not working in the theater. At times there are no gowns,” said the doctor who has since decided to make use of theaters at private hospitals.
Meanwhile, state hospital staff like that of Onandjokwe have become accustomed to operating under similar conditions. On their list of needs, are vacolitres, gloves, syringes and linens for patients.
Vacolitres or ‘drips’ are used when the patient is dehydrated and needs water in their body or to supply medication to the patient. It becomes compromising when the hospital does not have these general rehydration fluids in supply
“When we do not have these fluids in supply, we are forced to use ring lactates and they are not convenient because of the mineral contents.” said a senior nurse from the state facility.
The short supply of gloves, as basic as they may seem, is another headache for nurses at Onandjokwe State Hospital. The gloves as used as protection to avoid nurses from getting into direct contact with patients.
“When the gloves are finished, we are forced to use sterile gloves for the most basic things such as making up the beds. In extreme circumstances, we are forced to wash and reuse the general gloves in order to preserve the sterile gloves for critical procedures,” said a nurse at the hospital.
The nurse added that medical personnel are forced to provide patients with old linen, a situation which has since left the nurses with no choice but to advice patients who are admitted to make use of their own linen for hygiene purposes.
The food, which is served by the hospital’s cleaners, is another factor that has discouraged families from leaving it up to the facility to feed their loved ones. “It is sad to see the sick being fed soup made from sausage with no taste at all. They eat the same food every day. The food is nothing close to a balanced diet. Sadly, even if you raise the matter with the authorities, nothing is done as the situation is normalized. Their food is seldom covered and not to mention – the cats that are everywhere. The hospital houses more cats than the sick.”
Meanwhile, those outside the country have highly praised Namibia’s health system with recent applauds coming from United States of America president Donald Trump. The country has made more verbal strides in the health fraternity but the situation on the ground paints a different picture. Three years ago, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba stressed that Namibia should have access to quality health systems in terms of prevention, cure and rehabilitation by 2017.
The financial fracas in the country has partly blocked government’s ambitions to provide quality healthcare.
Just a few weeks ago in the capital, the state hospital employees demonstrated at the ministry’s headquarters in a bid to express their dissatisfaction regarding the working environment, workload and lack of equipment.