There have been a lot of emotions emanating from the state of the hospitals especially after the release of the Health Commission into the public domain recently.
Judging from media reports and social networks’ debates, the nation is divided on what should be done.
There is a section that argues that the blame should be borne by government as a whole and not the Health Minister, Richard Kamwi alone.
They further say that Kamwi is one of the hardest working ministers whom they place in the same category as the late Education Minister, Abraham Iyambo.
Then there is another section that argues that Kamwi should either resign or be booted out because of the problems his ministry finds itself in.
Kamwi himself thinks that he has been let down by the system that does not give him powers to carry out the full mandate of his ministry.
He also talks about the lack of resources to fund all the developments and resuscitate old and broken infrastructure countrywide.
Kamwi is right in blaming the system; he is right on the lack of resources and expertise; he is right on most of all the issues he says except one – that he should not be blamed for it all.
On NBC’s One-on-One programme last week, Kamwi pointed at the system at every turn.
It’s the system that excludes him from sitting on the tender board; it’s the system that takes from him the right to run his ministry on a day-to-day basis; it’s the system that does not allow him to employ more people; and it’s the system that is at the centre of the rot in his ministry.
He is right except that Kamwi does not say who creates the system.
Definitely, the permanent secretaries do not create the system; they don’t sit in parliament; they don’t enact laws; they have no power to motivate amendments – Kamwi does.
Kamwi has been sitting not only in parliament but Cabinet for close to eight years now. He knew all along that he was presiding over a system that leads to nowhere but premature deaths of babies and that of mothers.
He also knew that hospitals and clinics countrywide are dying slowly together with most patients. He knew that he does not have enough expertise; that nurses were overworked; that infrastructure was decaying and falling apart yet he did not raise any of these issues in parliament.
As a law-maker, Kamwi is the only person who could have stood up and can still stand up in parliament or even confront President Hifikepunye Pohamba, telling him how the system in place does not work for his ministry.
But he did not. Instead, he had a long-standing tiff with his former permanent secretary, Kahijoro Kahuure with whom he could not discuss issues to better the health situation in the country. And that tiff had nothing to do with the system but flawed personalities.
Hard work versus smart work
Health ministries are omegas and alfas of any nation today. This is because most if not all babies are born and where most go to die.
Man is immortal but hospitals are there to make sure that life is saved no matter what and when death strikes, as it should and always does, medical practitioners would have lived to their call and oath to do everything they can to maintain life.
It is because of this that one single suspicious death in a hospital erases the million-plus successes achieved over the years.
More-so that hospitals are oases of hope for every patient.
It is largely because of this that Kamwi’s attempt to defend the health situation by listing the successes Namibia has had so far in the sector does not stand up.
Kamwi as a doctor himself knows or should know that while death is inevitable, nobody is expected to die under the care of state medical care-givers.
This is exactly why one death under unclear circumstances is bigger and more than hundreds other lives saved at the time of the death.
One would then wonder and ask why the Health ministry attracts so much negativity when Kamwi is always on TV or print media taking on his staff from the ground.
Why has the Windhoek Central Hospital, where Kamwi’s offices are, been fingered for most of the rot and yet the minister did not know about whatever was going on there right in front of his eyes.
This should certainly raise questions on what is hard work. Is it staying in office longest or being on TV or in papers most? Or are ministers who seek the media most the hardest workers while those who hardly make it in the public domain lazy tortoises?
The section that argues that Kamwi is one of the hardest working ministers cites his management-by-wandering-about (MBWA) method as an example.
If at all, Kamwi is such a hard worker, surely this should reflect on the ground just like what can be seen at Home Affairs and Immigration barely six months after Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana’s take-over. Those queues are gone and this will in the long run eliminate corruption because service has improved and people will not look for short-cuts.
There is a difference between working hard and working smart. In most cases, some people work hard by staying long hours on the job but yield no results in the end while others work smartly – that is with clearly set targets and time-frames – and still achieve.
Still Kamwi is to blame
What Kamwi said on NBC is a clear admission that he is as powerless as any one of the many patients who find jungles in state hospitals where reptiles and creatures prowl unhindered.
Here is a man who admits that the system he can change has defeated him; a man who admits that people who must answer to him, are not doing so; a man who should be in overall charge admitting that there is a part of his ministry he does not deal with; a man who, while apologetic for all the deaths, still insists that the situation can’t be any better.
As the minister, Kamwi should accept blame for everything. The permanent secretaries are his subordinates. Kamwi, as one of the ministers, formulates the law and the PSes as accounting officers, implement it.
And that law which creates the system is not cast in stone like the Ten Commandments given to Moses.
Kamwi has the power to ask parliament to change it so that he can perform better and deliver results.
The fact that he admits being powerless on national TV should be a major cause for great concern. It also brings into question whether he has a plan for the ministry. Honestly, that he wanders about checking staff and embarrassing them on TV does not amount to putting a working system in place.
And indeed, the nation cannot rejoice simply because Kamwi has reacted to a death by calling for a commission of enquiry as if that will resurrect the dead?
Kamwi should know that the nation expects more of him and that for once, he should stop blaming his juniors. There is no way that Kamwi can be clean simply because he is the head of the ministry.
Man up and map the way forward.