Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Health ministry is critical but stable

Like former South African president Jacob Zuma would say, the patient is critical but in stable condition. Whatever that meant, only he knew. Probably his own medical language.
But this week, especially while penning this editorial, I thought the statement is quite fitting to our health ministry.
The health sector is in a critical condition, that much we know, the stability aspect remains a mystery.
According to health minister Dr. Bernard Haufiku, the ministry is underfunded by at least N$2.5 billion. In this case, the ministry is in a dilemma to get its house in order and prioritise adequately.
Underfunding the health sector is not only unfair on the patients but also the medical staff who will be forced to fork out extra money to get private healthcare.
It is common knowledge that one can only have expectations synonymous to the input, and this explains why our limping health sector is failing to deliver fully on its mandate.
The Health and Social Services ministry received a N$6.5 billion budget allocation this year.
The ministry has been under scrutiny for a while now facing an avalanche of medical shortcomings. Firstly, many if not most of the hospitals around the country are falling the patients. The shortage of drugs has become another shortcoming that continues to hold service delivery in the sector hostage.
Currently, the ministry is unable to employ nursing graduates as it is operating on an outdated staffing structure of 2003.
And even if they were to employ these nurses, there would be no money to pay salaries. The minister is on record this week saying his ministry would need an additional N$3 billion to be able to serve its mandate fully.
Ours is a government with a lot of talk and not much in practice. It is thus puzzling how haphazard our priorities are and yet we expect extraordinary results. Instead of focusing on daily services that benefit the entire country, we fund non-essential programmes.
At the same time, thousands of sickly Namibians are left to sit on the broken benches at public health facilities as they desperately seek quality healthcare to see the one nurse expected to see one nurse.
Of course lawmakers cannot resonate with these narratives because they can afford private healthcare.
Perhaps it is time to compel all public office bearers to make use of public health and education facilities, maybe they will take a keen interest in their work to improve the services on offer to the country.
Someone called it politics of the belly and the family in the yard. At the receiving end of the health budget cuts are the poor voters who are turned away from hospitals due to a shortage of medicine. On the other hand, important medical operations are postponed due to a lack of equipment.
If you want to see how bad the system has deteriorated, ask the patients who are asked to bring a clean sheet of paper for nurses to write down the patient’s record.
The Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein motivated the overall government cuts when he delivered the 2018/19 budget last month.
He said, “ours is an economy at a turning point and this budget is a funding compact for growth, bringing about jobs, less inequality, less poverty and improved service delivery.”
The rhetoric does not seem to reflect the situation on the ground. We need to seriously look at what we put in the health coffers before we bash those leading the ministry.
In a country where private healthcare is unaffordable to the majority of Namibians, quality public healthcare becomes a crucial factor to keep our nation healthy.

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