The whole mark of a shining economy comes with the usual liberties, including quality public health delivery, an education system which has the potential to stimulate growth and improve industry, political freedom and obviously minimum levels of poverty.
Alas! A simple visit to any of the referral hospitals will give a scene which resembles a place that needs more attention than words can express. They resemble places which need more help than just a debate in parliament, and indeed a place where any Namibian, no matter how much pain they are going through, will rue the day they could not afford medical aid.
No need to emphasise that Health receives quite a significant chunk of the national budget. This obviously creates expectations that the money will be wellused in a manner that assures Namibians that they will receive quality health delivery. The last allocation from Treasury was N$6 billion.
Ironically, most of the money is spent on salaries and wages, and very little is used to improve the quality of facilitates that patients use. There is no need to be silent about a rather ravaging situation, which leaves most of the patients who visit either the Katutura Hospital or the Windhoek Central Hospital with more headaches than they had before going there.
Interestingly, on one of the recent parliamentary debates broadcasted on television, the issue of health delivery was raised. However, surprisingly, one senior Minister (name withheld) seemed to take the issue for granted, and one day in parliament the Minister literally rubbished opposition concerns that the Katutura Hospital is becoming a near-death experience and is moving from a place where people are expected to receive good treatment.
Maybe the description by opposition politicians of the scenery at the referral hospital is rather melodramatic, but one has to pay a random visit at the State hospital to see how disturbing the situation is. The seasoned politician and Minister (name known), in fact an intellectual for that matter, stood up in parliament and gladly denied that the situation at the Katutura hospital is bad.
“I do not believe the lies peddled by the opposition in this August House because I know the Katutura hospital. In fact, I visit the Katutura hospital every day because my wife works there,” said the politician, who also drives a luxurious black Mercedes Benz, to thunderous applause from some ruling party parliamentarians.
This writer almost somewhat felt proud that here is a minister who visits Katutura to get treatment as a Namibian public official with confidence in his public health system. Alas, this Minister was only proud he visits the sorry State hospital to pick his wife or drop her after work. What a shame.
Such type of political grandstanding has the potential to destroy the efforts being made to rectify the situation. One person saying the situation at referral hospitals is pathetic should not in any way be taken as a direct attack on the Government, but rather a reminder for politicians to be kept on their toes and to remedy the situation for the betterment of the whole public health system.
This is ideally the time we say shame, shame, shame on you, Honourable Minister, for refusing to take the situation as it is. There is obviously a serious problem in the public health delivery system which even the Minister of Health Bernard Haufiku acknowledges, but grandstanding or looking for political expediency with it is pathetic, shameful and rather disturbing.
Put bluntly, the Katutura hospital is a pale shadow of what a public health delivery institution is supposed to be. It is very normal patients looking to be admitted to be told that there is a shortage of beds. It is equally normal to see that at some point, elevators do not work; much, much normal to find garbage in wards; and indeed it is not out of this world to hear that a patient waited for more than nine hours to be attended to.
Recently, this reporter passed by the hospital and saw helpless patients sleeping on the floor, while others were dealing with their agonising pain in the admissions’ section with little assistance from either nurses or referral staff. It will be rather unfair not mention that these are the Namibians whose tax is used to finance luxuries given to politicians to make their lives much better.
In fact, one would bet a cent that our politicians do not get treatment at these institutions because they have medical aid. This is the same institution where sometimes patients are seen walking around outside, and it was not long ago when this paper carried a story of a cancer patient who had the luxury of taking a smoke break outside the hospital under the watchful eye of a staff member.
Going forward, Government needs to throw its whole weight behind the Minister of Health and support the initiative of improving service delivery. It is imperative that Government institutes a thorough audit which asserts exactly which equipment and tools are needed by the referral hospitals.
Government should look forward and reap the optimum results from the private-public partnership which they proposed last year for the health system. As it is, such policies are going to waste and gathering dust. In the past, Government has been a good crafter of policies, but implementation has always let the country down.
The challenges experienced by the referral hospitals are nothing big, and also are nothing for which solutions have not been crafted. The solutions to this health crisis are within government, but implementation is al