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Ageing ambulance fleet haunts region

2022-07-05  Albertina Nakale

Ageing ambulance fleet haunts region
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OTJOZONDU – The vast Otjozondjupa region is sitting on an emergency time bomb, with the health ministry’s fleet of cars in serious need of resuscitation.

In an interview with New Era on Saturday, Otjozondjupa health director Gebhardo Timotheus confirmed the emergency vehicle woes in the region.

He said ambulances for Okahandja, Otjiwarongo and Grootfontein district hospitals are old. 

“These vehicles break down while transporting patients,” he said. “Last week Wednesday, an ambulance was taking patients to Windhoek – and it broke down just 60km to Okahandja on its way to Windhoek. It is an emergency. It means these patients can even die on board. The vehicles’ mileages are very high. Fortunately, we
got reinforcement from Windhoek. On God’s mercy, we didn’t experience any demise of patients while en route to a referral hospital.” Timotheus warned if the situation is not addressed, the region could lose a life while waiting for reinforcement.

He clarified the issue is not just for ambulances, but the whole fleet for the health directorate in the region is old and needs replacement.

“If the government can give us at least four ambulances to the available district hospitals: Okahandja, Okakarara, Otjiwarongo and Grootfontein,” he pleaded.  

Governor James Uerikua also confirmed during his state of the region address (Sora) that in terms of ambulance services, the region is still challenged due to the ageing fleet. He said these old fleets experience breakdowns.

“As we are talking, the whole region is only having two operational ambulances, which is a serious cause of concern and requires immediate attention,” governor Uerikua said.

New Era visited Otjozondu clinic on Thursday, where registered nurse Friedolin Nakangombe confirmed the shortage of an ambulance for emergencies and referral purposes.

“We had an ambulance but the driver resigned last year August. We have been requesting another ambulance with a driver but there is no response up to now. It takes a long time for an ambulance to reach us. Sometimes, it comes from as far as Windhoek, which is more than 150km away,” Nakangombe narrated.

Otjozondu clinic has two registered nurses and one enrolled nurse.

Timotheus confirmed the driver went on early retirement, saying the replacement has not yet been appointed. 

“It was during Covid time. They used to be served by an ambulance driver, who was stationed at Okahandja. There is no vehicle for that clinic. They use a bakkie to serve as an ambulance,” he stated.

Timotheus described the old fleet as a liability to the region, adding these old cars are costly to maintain. 

According to him, one car can cost about N$150 000 to repair.

At the moment, Timotheus revealed Otjozondjupa region only has one functional and running ambulance for Otjiwarongo state hospital out of the six available old vehicles. 

Of the six, one is written off, while four are in for repairs. 

The same emergency crisis is experienced at the Okakarara state hospital, where out of the available three ambulances, none is in running order. 

One is written off, while two are under repair.  The only available emergency vehicle the hospital has resorted to is the use of a bakkie for patients.   

For the Okahandja state hospital, there are two vehicles available, but none are in running order, as both are being repaired. 

Timotheus said Okahandja is currently using Windhoek ambulances. 

The Grootfontein hospital has five vehicles, but only one is functional; hence, the hospital uses the Namibian Defence Force ambulance.

According to him, areas such as Uitkoms farm and Okondjatu use the ambulance stationed in Okahandja.

Further, he said, another clinic at Okamatapati has no ambulance.

The gap in functional ambulances in the region is felt even more by rural settlements, such as Otjozondu, Hochfeld, Uikoms, Okondjatu and Okaatapati.

The Gam settlement is served by Tsumkwe, which has a fully-fledged ambulance that was procured in 2020.

- anakale@nepc.com.na


2022-07-05  Albertina Nakale

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