Patients turned away at Katutura hospital

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A large number of people seeking medical attention at Katutura State hospital are being turned away unattended following a new rule that medical personnel should only attend to emergency cases.

This means that patients with clinical problems are no longer a priority at the hospital as they are advised to seek medical attention at the nearest clinics, many of which operate only until 17h00.

Sick patients are advised to seek medical attention within the clinics’ operating hours and should they fall ill or need medical attention after the clinics’ operating hours they are either turned away at the hospital, or forced to wait for hours to be attended to.

New Era observed on Sunday how patients had to wait for more than six hours just to have their vital signs checked before they can be referred to a doctor.

Some patients, who sought medical attention at 15h00 on Sunday were only helped at 01h00 on Monday. “A person can even die here,” remarked one very agitated female patient.

One of the nurses on duty kept telling patients to go home, as they would only be attended to once the emergency cases were dealt with.

Even in instances where the emergency cases were not many, the nurses reluctantly helped the outpatients, with some openly remarking that they would not help clinical cases and that patients should go to the nearest clinics.

A patient, who was bleeding profusely, had to go back unattended because the personnel on duty insisted that he wait in the queue like everyone else.

When New Era visited the hospital yesterday, some patients were to their great disappointment turned away unattended. A nurse on duty yesterday turned away 33-year-old Elias Ochorub, who came from Dordabis to seek medical attention at the hospital, saying: “Here we only deal with emergencies. You can see how full it is here. I can help you, but the doctor may not help you.”

A disappointed Ochorub told New Era: “I explained my problem to the nurse, but he referred me to the clinic. That is not correct. If it was a weekend [when clinics are mostly closed] would he have also turned me away?”

The spokesperson of the ministry of health, Ester Paulus, explained that Katutura Hospital is a referral hospital: “Patients treated are those that are referred to the hospital by other district hospitals, clinics and health centres. The hospital attends to emergency cases, maternal cases and all paediatric cases during and after hours.”

“After hours the hospital only attends to emergency cases, such as trauma cases, paediatric cases, patients involved in accidents and those that are severely ill and in need of urgent hospitalisation. Normal illnesses or cold cases are treated at district hospitals, health centres and clinics, and if they require specialised treatment then they are referred to Katutura Intermediate Hospital,” Paulus explained.