• October 24th, 2020

Hits and misses in the health sector

Despite misses, there have been improvements in the public health sector from where the country was 30 years back.

Former health minister Bernard Haufiku said life expectancy and maternal and infant mortality have improved.  He said immunisation is almost near 100% and many women deliver their babies in a health facility and no longer at home. He stated that complications related to deliveries are far less.
“On that score, we have made positive strides but a whole lot more needs to be done concerning personnel and equipment and communication. Like patient records is one huge challenge. We need to migrate electronically. We need to work on ICT (information and communication technology) in health, especially patient records and what you call telemedicine,” he said during an interview with New Era while looking at the hit and misses in the health sector 30 years after independence.

Haufiku, who serves as special health advisor in the Presidency, said health personnel leave the public health sector for the private health sector because of the working environment.  He said surprisingly, the personnel do not leave their jobs because of salaries.  A study done in 2017 called “Work load indicator and staff norms” revealed this, said Haufiku.

“I guess they are referring to facilities that are dilapidated in the public health care sector, which are much better maintained in the private health sector. Stock is always available mostly in the private sector, structure and management systems are efficient - you get everything on time. I think that is what they’re referring to the working environment in the private healthcare,” the former minister said.
He stated that for the public health sector, it is more the deficiency driving people away and not really the money (salaries). He said salaries were third on the list of reasons why people leave the public health care system.

Haufiku said what further drives the personnel away from the government is because they decided to do away with paying full salaries with packages to intern doctors. “If we are cutting salaries, it should be from top to bottom.”

Among other reflections on the health sector, Haufiku earlier touched on the number of referral hospitals the country needs. He said about five referral hospitals are needed to ease the traffic of patients coming to the two Windhoek state hospitals.  Haufiku said during his reign as health minister, from 2015 to end of 2018, they planned putting up referral hospitals in Ondangwa, Otjiwarongo, Keetmanshoop and possibly Katima Mulilo, as well as in the region Erongo.

Out of the 27 state hospitals - the country has five referral hospital, including Windhoek Central Hospital, which is considered a national referral facility, while Katutura, Oshakati, Onandjokwe and Rundu facilities are intermediate hospitals. The ministry of health has 431 public facilities, including 27 hospitals, 37 health centres and 287 clinics. 

Haufiku stated that he was glad residents in Windhoek’s informal settlement were building their own toilets and this is what they are advocating for under the concept of community-led total sanitation. He said more than 30 toilets have been built. He added that they are busy piloting a vaccine to contain the spread of the disease.  “We are trying to bring in a vaccine against Hepatitis E to be piloted in specific areas where there is a high burden of Hepatitis E in Windhoek, DRC (Swakopmund) and the Omusati region. But we want to start in Windhoek,” he indicated.

He said they had written a protocol for intervention on the vaccine and submitted it to the ministry of health last year, 13 December, and they are just waiting for the response. He repeated that Hepatitis E is a poverty disease. Because of poverty and the social set up where people live, the sanitation needs to be addressed, that is, personal hygiene and water. “Once we sort those things, I tell you - Hepatitis E will disappear. ◆

Selma Ikela
2020-03-20 16:01:19 | 7 months ago

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