More often than not a bad carpenter blames his tools, and the most incompetent fools always have an excuse for their inability. This week The Villager Newspaper in the northern section of the paper carries a rather heart wrenching story that depicts four health workers at a clinic in Eenhana catering for more than 7000 patients.
It is even pathetic when you imagine that the doctor is only available on certain occasions during the week, and in that period, the three nurses have to deal with the cumbersome duty of catering for the multitudes thronging the clinic.
This is in an era when the Ministry of health is adamant that all is being done for the betterment of the national health delivery system. The Government is also happy to announce that the Ministry of Health is working through private-public partnerships to improve delivery of health facilities to the majority of the nation.
However, it is baffling that 25 years after independence, serious shortages of health personnel will be biting to such an extent where only four people are assigned to cater to the multitudes of patients at a remote clinic.
It also raises the question whether the quality of service dished out to these rural patients meets the required standards. It is not a secret that the job done by nurses is equally cumbersome and can be draining to the brim. Of course, for such reasons, the ministry needs to make sure that there are enough health workers to tackle the problems presented to them.
One wonders what it is that stifles efforts by the Ministry of Health to improve the availability of skills in the sensitive sector. While the past Government has done tremendously well tapping into expatriate labour, one should be open and agree that maybe the idea of starting to train doctors and medical practitioners might have come later than expected. One would also have expected the Government to lay the modalities of establishment on a robust medical sector driven by its local people in the infancy of our independency. We certainly did not do enough to make sure that as a country we are self-sustainable in terms of providing rare skills. This is a sector that Government needs to thoroughly look at and find immediate, medium and long-term plans to solve the problem of skills shortage.
In the interim while the Government is taking all necessary steps to avert the challenges associated with lack of skills, there is a need to cultivate ideas that will exonerate the country from scenarios in which a few people are asked to deal with unrealistic targets. It is virtually unthinkable to imagine that each health worker at that Eenhana clinic is dealing with an average of about 1300 clients.
It is also not practical that the very same health worker will give ample attention to the patients that come his or her way because fatigue always creeps in.
There are also other avenues where government can reduce the doctor/nurse to patient ratio. These avenues include sending as many Namibians to institutions abroad to study in their different fields of study. Government can then bond these professionals to make sure they serve the needs of the country before they chase the profit and big cheques.
This is a model that is used by many countries in the world and it is yielding the required results.