Nurses at the Premature Unit of the Central Hospital last week almost downed tools in an attempt to get the attention of their management team claiming they are being overworked.
They claim to have seen their work load more than double because of understaffing, a situation that has led to most of them faking illnesses to get booked off so that they can rest.
Understaffing has haunted the ministry for some time now, a situation that continues to put the fraternity’s standards under the scope.
To meet the struggles of the limping ministry, the nurses, who are well aware of a few graduates that have not yet been absorbed by the ministry due to the economics at play, suggest that the management instead cuts their overtime and recruit new nurses.
“We are often forced to work overtime and it is not healthy for our wellbeing and the lives of the babies. All we are saying is, instead of forcing us to work over time, which translates to paying one person two salaries, why not employ our sisters on the streets with the skills? This will help us spread the work load,” said a nurse from the unit.
The premature section caters for babies delivered under critical situations and subsequently cannot be in the care of their mothers yet. They 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.
During the incident last week the section only had five nurses on a 19:00 to 07:00 shift working with over 50 newborn babies.
“It makes no sense for the ministry to be on their top notch when it comes to disease prevention but they don’t have enough soldiers on the ground. If you are just five working on so many babies, how are you really able to be as effective as you are expected to be? We do not work overtime because we want to; it is the situation that has forced us to do so. But we have people on the streets that can help, recruit them and stop overworking us,” said the frustrated nurses.
Hospital Superintendent Dr Uirab confirmed the predicament saying the nurses from the unit have indeed visited his office numerous times to press the matter but, “there is nothing we can do at the moment.”
“We obviously need more nurses but we are unable to employ them because of finances and secondly because of the fact that we are working with an outdated structure at the moment,” said Uirab.
Uirab highlighted that the bone of contention at the moment is that the hospital and health fraternity at large is operating on an outdated structures and policies.
He said the current staffing establishment in use is that of 2003, which does not meet the current standards, demands and needs.
The ministry has submitted a reviewed proposal to the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Prime Minister in request for a new structure but the process has not yet been finalized.
“We have a shortage of nurses in general and we will obviously always need more nurses. But the structure at the moment is such that we cannot employ.
This is why we have requested to be given more positions but we are yet to receive feedback. So we are trying to cope with what we have and the nurses just have to bear with us,” he said.
Last month, about 300 nursing graduates petitioned to the health ministry’s buildings seeking for answers as to why the ministry was not absorbing them as custom. The group comprised of graduated from University of Namibia, International University of Management and the Welwitschia University.
The ministry has been under fire since last year particularity on the need to dress the staffing issue. At the moment, the country has ratio of 3 nurses per 1000 inhabitants, which exceed the World Health Organisation standards for density.
“The longer management keeps giving us administrative answers; the more we will see nurses leaving for the private sector.
We don’t understand why it has to take so long. These are the lives of Namibians we are handling every day and the delay tactics jeopardises good service. It is simple, just employ the nurses on the streets and allow us to work like human beings,” said the nurses.